A Little Background Info
The Republic of Indonesia is a group of islands located in the Indian and Pacific oceans near Southeast Asia. It is the world's largest archipelago (island group), with around 13,670 islands, more than half of which are uninhabited.
There were many Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms in early Indonesia. By the end of the 13th century, Islamic kingdoms had also been established, and over the next few centuries Islam slowly spread through the islands.
In the 16th century, European traders began gaining influence in Indonesia, and eventually the Dutch took control. Indonesia came to be called the Dutch East Indies. It remained a colony of the Netherlands until 1949, when it gained independence. Its first two presidents, Sukarno and Suharto, became dictators, but more recently Indonesia has been moving toward true democracy.
There are over 230 million people in Indonesia. Approximately 88 percent are Muslim, making it the world's largest Islamic country. It is also the fourth most populous country in the world (after China, India, and the United States).
Indonesia is ethnically diverse. Although the official language is Bahasa Indonesia, a form of Malay, many other languages are spoken, including Dutch, English, and local dialects such as Javanese. More than half of all Indonesians live on the island of Java, where the capital city of Jakarta is located.
The former Indonesian province of East Timor, made up of islands at the eastern end of the archipelago, became an independent republic in 2002. Indonesia and East Timor are not monarchies, but traditional leaders still have influence.
The Largest Indonesian Islands
The Indonesian province of Irian Jaya occupies the western half of the world's second largest island, New Guinea. The eastern half of the island belongs to the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. Indonesia also owns 75 percent of the world's third largest island, Borneo, which Indonesians call Kalimantan. The rest of Borneo belongs to Brunei and Malaysia. Other large Indonesian islands include Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Java.
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Indonesia: Peoples and Histories by Jean Gelman Taylor. Published in 2003, this is the first new history of Indonesia written in over 20 years. It offers a historical overview from the prehistoric period to the present day.
A History of Modern Indonesia Since C. 1200 by M. C. Ricklefs. Indonesia is the most populous nation of the Islamic world. This book draws on sources in both Indonesian and Western languages.
Monarchy in South East Asia: The Faces of Tradition in Transition by Roger Kershaw. The history and contemporary role of South East Asian monarchy, including Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, and Laos.
Archipelago: Islands of Indonesia by Gavan Daws, Marty Fujita. Indonesia's natural wonders, from the 19th century discoveries of naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace to the fate of forests and reefs in the 21st century. Contains more than 200 color photographs.
Obscure Kingdoms: Around the World in Search of Royal Courts by Edward Fox. Published in 1993. The author travelled to Java, Tonga, Oman, Nigeria, and Swaziland. Part travel book and part commentary on kingship and its traditions. Out of print, but available from Alibris.
Historical Atlas of Indonesia by Robert Cribb. Over 300 full-color maps with detailed accompanying text. From Alibris.
Visible and Invisible Realms: Power, Magic, and Colonial Conquest in Bali by Margaret J. Wiener. In 1908, the ruler of the Balinese realm of Klungkung and more than 100 members of his family and court were massacred when they marched deliberately into the fire of the Dutch colonial army. This book examines that event and the power of Indonesia's indigenous rulers.
The Seen and Unseen Worlds in Java, 1726-1749 by M. C. Ricklefs. History, literature, and Islam in the court of Pakubuwana II.
The Power of Prophecy: Prince Dipanagara and the End of an Old Order in Java, 1785-1855 by Peter Carey. Biography of Indonesian prince Dipanagara (also spelled Diponegoro), who led the the Java War against the Dutch. The book discusses the rise of Western colonial rule, the fate of indigenous cultures under imperialism, and the role of Javanese Islam in modern Indonesia.
Letters of a Javanese Princess by Raden Adjeng Kartini, translated by Agnes Louise Symmers. Letters of an Indonesian princess, written between 1899 and 1904, when the author died in childbirth at age 25.
The Revolt of Prince Nuku: Cross-Cultural Alliance-Making in Maluku, C.1780-1810 by Muridan Widjojo. During the Dutch East India Company's rule of Indonesia's Maluku Islands (Spice Islands), Prince Nuku gained independence for the Sultanate of Tidore by creating an alliance with the English.
A Kingdom of Words: Language and Power in Sumatra by Jane Drakard. The first detailed analysis of royal authority in the central Sumatran kingdom of Minangkabau between the 17th and the 17th centuries. Sometimes available from Amazon.
Forgotten Kingdoms in Sumatra by Raden Kartini. F.M. Schnitger. First published in 1939, this is an overview of Sumatra's peoples, culture, and history. Out of print, but available from Alibris.
Sultanates of Indonesia