Broad-brush History. "A Short History of Indonesia: The Unlikely Nation?" by Colin Brown. [review]
This is a welcome addition to the historical literature about Indonesia. Aimed at new readers with limited or no knowledge of Indonesia, and written in an informal and accessible style, it makes an interesting contrast with the other well-known history in this field, Merle Ricklefs’s "History of Modern Indonesia". When Ricklefs produced his second edition about ten years ago (he published a third expanded edition in 2001), the very existence of the Indonesian state was not as problematic as it now seems. Scholars could still talk without hesitation of a 'history of Indonesia'. These days, the future of the country as a single state is more contested than at any time since the 1950s - hence Brown’s subtitle, "The Unlikely Nation?" He explains in the foreword that, since the idea of a united archipelago is so recent, 'in a sense the book has been written backwards, using the Indonesian state and nation at the end of the twentieth century as its starting or defining point.'