Indonesian Sociological Studies. Selected Writings of B.[ertram Otto] Schrieke: Part Two: Ruler and Realm in Early Java
The Hague, W. Van Hoeve; New York, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1957. ix+ 491 pp.

Schrieke was one of the few prewar scholars who attempted to synthesize historical and sociological perspectives in interpreting the rise of Indonesian civilization and who attempted to describe that rise in terms of its own internal dynamics rather than as a series of more or less passive responses to external Hindu, Moslem, Chinese, and European pressures. At once the most speculative and most realistic of Dutch historians of the archipelago, he mixed careful scholarship, shrewd sociological guess-work, and wild surmise in varying proportions to work out a reconstruction of precontact political, economic, and religious change which is by far the most plausible yet presented, and the most suggestive. Having issued one volume of his works in translation four years ago, the scholars of the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam have followed it with this second, so that the main outlines of Schrieke's analysis of Indonesia as an autonomous civilization are now available to the wider scholarly world. The effect will certainly be to establish him as a towering figure in Southeast Asian historical research.

Unlike the first volume, which treated of a wide range of topics, this book is concerned almost entirely with Javanese political, social, and economic organization during the pre-Dutch period, the bulk of it consisting of a single, uncompleted work, "Ruler and Realm in Early Java," on which Schrieke was still working at his death in 1945. Using as his basic methodological guide the not wholly indisputable premise that "the Java of 1700 a.d. was in reality the same as the Java of 700 a.D.," Schrieke attempts to use the better known periods of Javanese dynastic history, particularly that of the seventeenth Century Moslem kingdom of Mataram on which there is a good deal of eye-witness material from Dutch commerical and governmental sources, to reconstruct the life of the older ones (Madjapahit, Kediri, Singasari, and so on), on which there is little but archeological and semi-mythological data. Despite the dubious quality of such a wholly static view of Javanese history in theoretical terms, Schrieke's self-consciously anachronistic approach enables him to produce a series of detailed, enlightening, and highly circumstantial discussions of various aspects of early Javanese society: royal succession, the causes of dynastic decline, the religious legitimation of rule, the geo-graphical basis of State Organization, the road and waterways transport System, military Organization and warfare, administrative structure, taxation, international trade, and the rise of Islam.
    Though for the general reader much of this detail — the complex genealogies of Javanese kings, the long lists of administrative posts, or the extended descriptions of State boundaries — will undoubtedly seem tedious, and the unfinished nature of the manuscript gives a cryptic quality to some passages, the general descriptive and interpretive syn-thesis which emerges from these pages presents us with our clearest picture of precolonial society in Java. For almost the first time, Javanese history appears to have a pattern of its own; to be not a series of episodic and inexplicable florescences and catastrophes, but a continuous eco­nomic, political, and cultural process.

Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences

Book Review, in: The Pacific Histoical Review, vol. 2 (1959), p. 199.


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