A Prince in a Republic: The Life of Sultan Hamengku Buwono IX of Yogyakarta

A Prince in a Republic: The Life of Sultan Hamengku Buwono IX of Yogyakarta
John Monfries, author
Date of publication:  2015
Publisher:  Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Number of pages:  376
Code:  BM504
Soft Cover
ISBN: 9789814519380
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John Ingleson, Asian Studies Review, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 165-166, 2017.

".... This is the first major biography of a man whose life covered the last decades of colonial rule, the upheavals of the revolution, the difficult post-colonial years and finally the first decade and a half of Suharto's rule. 

Monfries has assiduously used archives and libraries in Indonesia, the Netherlands, Australia and the United Sates and interviewed many of the people who knew the Sultan well. The result is a comprehensive biography, clearly sympathetic to the man, but unfailingly honest in its assessment and its limitations. It is highly readable and includes some marvellous photographs gathered from various sources during the research. 

The standout chapters are those covering the revolution, arguably the years in which the young Sultan Hamengku Buwono made his most important contribution to modern Indonesia. .... Monfries covers this part of his life extremely well: available documentation is scattered and there are conflicting accounts of whether or not the Dutch made a significant offer to him as an incentive for him to abandon the Republican cause. The importance of the Sultan's stance, his courage in the face of what might have been retribution from the Dutch, and his personal commitment to an independent Indonesia are rightly recognised. In doing so, Monfries weighs up the documentation available to him and raises alternative explanations for key events before reaching cautious conclusions. 

This biography provides insights into an important period of Indonesia's modern history. By putting Sultan Hamengku Buwono at the centre of the story Monfries has drawn our attention to the kinds of informal influence often overlooked by focusing on the better known political players."

Horton, Anthony V.M. International Quarterly for Asian Studies. Vol. 46: 3, pp. 416-418.

".... The author of the book, an Australian diplomat whose career included postings to Indonesia and Brunei, returned to academia after retirement and this book, the first English-language biography of HBIX, is based on his doctoral thesis, written "several years ago". In complete command of his brief and conscious of the potential pitfalls, John Monfries provides incisive analysis based on exemplary sifting and assessment of the source material. Readers see the authentic approach of the historian, reading events forwards, avoiding anachronism, and detecting where the record has been "corrected" hindsight. He also points out where the evidence is too slight for a conclusive pronouncement. There is, moreover, a series of brilliant digressions, including those on biography as a genre, the intellectual climate at the University of Leyden in the 1930s, and the history of Yogyakarta. ... given the limitations under which the scholar was labouring, it is the best that can be expected."

About the publication

Hamengku Buwono IX, the late Sultan of Yogyakarta Special Province, is revered by Indonesians as one of the great founders of the modern Indonesian state. He leaves a positive but in some ways ambiguous legacy in political terms. His most conspicuous achievement was the survival of hereditary Yogyakartan kingship, and he provided rare stability and continuity in Indonesia's highly fractured modern history. Under the New Order, Hamengku Buwono also helped to launch the Indonesian economy on a much stronger growth path. Although remembered as the epitome of "political decency", he faded from power and influence as Vice President in the 1970s, and the repressive and anti-democratic features of Suharto's New Order seemed to contradict much of what Hamengku Buwono originally stood for. This biography seeks to explain his political standpoint, motivations, and achievements, and set his career in the context of his times.

The e-chapter, "Introduction and Theoretical Considerations", is downloadable free of charge.

Click here for images of the book launch held at the Yogjakarta Palace on 12 April 2015.


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