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Reviews

Published: Jul 30, 2007

Review: Robert Cribb's Historical Atlas is breathtaking in its scope and presentation

Ron Witton

I have long found Robert Cribb's Historical dictionary of Indonesia (Scarecrow Press, 1992) a wonderful mine of information. Now he has produced a companion volume that is breathtaking in its scope and presentation. For those of us used to thinking of maps only as a source of geographical information, this volume begins to expand our cartographic universe. Maps cover the Landscape and the Environment, the Peoples of Indonesia, States and Polities until 1800, the Netherlands Indies 1800-1942, and finally, War, Revolution and Political Transformation, 1942 to the present.

Whether one wants to see the distribution of Krakatau noise and tsunamis in the Indian Ocean in August 1883 (Map 1.16), the languages of Borneo (2.4), population density in 1990 (2.74), Airlangga's kingdom in the eleventh century (3.14), how Golkar fared in the 1971 elections (5.38), regional unrest in Indonesia in 2000 (5.68), or the distribution of Muslims in Indonesia as shown by the 1980 census (2.27), this beautiful volume has it all.

Of particular fascination are such maps as Regional rebellions and provincial boundaries, 1950-1954 (5.20), Jakarta on the night of the coup, 1 October 1965 (5.32), or the horror of the New Order's Gulag system as shown by Detention camps for political prisoners ca 1975, as reported by Amnesty International (5.35).

If for example, you were interested in transmigration, you could begin with Slaving in the Indonesian archipelago, 16th-18th centuries (2.39), then examine maps illustrating colonial population movements, and finally move to the detailed maps on modern Indonesia's transmigration program. To check the international dimension you could then turn to Major migration by Indonesians beyond the archipelago, 17th to 20th centuries (2.49). Here you would learn that many Javanese worked in plantations and mines in the British colony of Queensland. Other migrations include those from China into Indonesia (2.51, 2.53 and 2.57).

Teachers will use these maps to make the region come alive and to explore a comparative regional focus. An informative narrative links the maps and draws out salient points. It may be too expensive for some individuals, but there is no excuse for institutional libraries not to obtain a copy. This is truly creative scholarship at its best.

Robert Cribb, Historical Atlas of Indonesia, Surrey, UK: Curzon, 2000/ Singapore: New Asian Library, 256pp, ISBN 0700709851/ 9810427719, Rrp US $100

(Dr) Ron Witton (rwitton@uow.edu.au) first visited Indonesia in 1962.

Inside Indonesia 68: Oct - Dec 2001

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