My First International Book Review

This my first book review in English which was published in Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land-en Volkenkude (BKI), an international journal of the humanities and social science of Southeast Asia and Oceania (Vol 161.1 2005). I would like to thanks Dr. David Henley for editing this review. I learned much from this review and I try to begin writing an article for international journal, especially in English.

Elsbeth Locher-Schoolten and Peter Rietbergen (eds.), Hof en handel; Aziatische vorsten en de VOC 1620-1720. Leiden: KITLV Uitgeverij, 2004, x + 350 pp. ISBN 90 6718 231 1. Price: EUR 35.

In this book, presented to Jurrien van Goor on his retirement from Utrecht University, twelve international authorities write (in Dutch and English) about the relationship between the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) and the Asian rulers in the seventeenth century.

The editors have divided the essays into two sections, the first dealing with the ‘Indonesian Archipelago’ and the second with the rest of Asia, from Persia to Japan. All of the essays have a common theme: the VOC’s relations with Asian courts in the period from 1620 to 1720.

After the introduction by the editors, the first section begins with a piece by Leonard Blussé on early VOC diplomacy and a visit by Chinese envoys to Batavia in 1624. An essay by Gerrit Knaap then deals with the relationship between the VOC and the sultanate of Ternate in the Ambonese islands during the same period. Leonard Andaya, by re-examining the contemporary sources closely, places the Aceh –VOC relationship in a wider context. He demonstrates that Acehnese queen Sultanah Taj al-Alam had an effective approach to government, blending a mellowness of temperament with firm resolve.

Heather Sutherland considers the relationship between the VOC and Makassar, the dominant local powers in eastern Indonesia. Comparing the situation before and after the conquest of Makassar by the company in 1669, she concludes that contrary to common wisdom this dramatic event did not mark the end of the port’s pivotal role.When Makassar’s place within the Asian commercial arena is examined over the whole period 1625-1720, it becomes clear that although 1669 was a very important turning point, it was by no means fatal.

Johan Talens present the result of research on the relationship between the sultanate of Banten and the VOC during the period 1680-1720. In this article we find analysis of the court-Company relationship as it impinged on military activities, and on the sphere of culture and religion, as well as on economic traffic. The essay by Mason C.Hoadley argues that the Cirebon court’s collaboration with the VOC was a crucial factor in institutional change. Change came about through local responses to new circumstances.

The second section begins with an essay by Peter Rietbergen cencerning merchant employed by the VOC and their relations with the Persian court. Om Prakash’s paper analyses some issues in relation to the interface between the VOC on the one hand and the Mughal Indian authorities and maritime merchants from Mughal regions such as Gujarat and Bengal.

Hugo s’ Jacobs writes about Hendrik van Reede, a VOC employee and informant at the court of Cochin. The relationship between the Company and Kandy court in the period of Governor Cornelis Jan Simon (1703-1707) is the topic of the Lodewijk Wagenaar’s article. In ‘Ayutthaya, King Phetracha and the world’, Remco Raben discusses the Dutch presence at the Ayutthaya in the seventeenth century. The relation of the Japanese shogunate in Edo with ‘the red hair barbarian’ (the Dutch) are described in a second piece by Peter Rietbergen.

This section closes with a brief biography and historiography of Jurrien van Goor by Elsbeth Locher-Scholten and Luc Nagtegaal. The book is also provided with a short bibliography of Jurrien van Goor’s work. In their introduction the editors emphasize the long duration of the relationship between the VOC and many Asian polities. This long interaction changed both the Asian and the European parties involved, and in somes areas its effects continue to be felt today. For anyone interested in this theme of Asian-European interaction, Hof en handel is a rich and fascinating source of information and ideas.

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