A recent opinion piece by Adrian Vickers at The Age led me to this very nifty little book. Adrian Vickers is Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Wollongong; he’s also written a book on Bali. For those, like myself, who know very little of Indonesia’s history and culture, Adrian Vickers has provided an absorbing, thoughtful and (what seemed to me) balanced history. My knowledge of Indonesia (a word invented by an Englishman by the way) is limited to the Communist purges (half a million killed) of the sixties, the invasion of East Timor and the Suharto regime.
Mr Vickers describes the early days of colonialism under the Dutch, the Revolution for independence, the long dictatorship of President Suharto, the financial collapse of the eighties and the uncertain road to democracy. It is also worth noting that after the Revolution there was a fledgling democracy – that democracy would be put on hold for some thirty years with Suharto.
I also found fascinating the sections of the book that dealt with Indonesia’s arts, culture and religion. The author also discusses at length the work of Indonesia’s writers and novelists, most notably Pramoedya Ananta Toer.
It is shameful how little we as Australians know of Indonesia’s history and culture. Our country is a baby by comparison, yet Indonesians feel that we lord it over them (if the opinions of a group of Indonesian youth on a Sixty Minutes show of a few years ago are anything to go by.)
Any student of our region should have this book at the top of their reading list. The book comes with a detailed bibliography.