Smallholders and Stockbreeders: Histories of Foodcrop and Livestock Farming in Southeast Asia
Although no one would contend that the agricultural history of Southeast Asia is terra incognita, it is fair to say that the subject is terra incompleta. Much has been written about Southeast Asia's plantation crops and about the region's rice export sector during the modern period, but little about other dimensions of its agricultural history. For this reason alone, Smallholders and Stockbreeders would be a welcome addition to the scholarly literature on Southeast Asia. Because all of the essays included in this collection are empirically rich and because at least some of them offer [End Page 172] equally valuable interpretive insights, moreover, the contributions go far beyond mere gap filling.
Smallholders and Stockbreeders exudes interdisciplinarity. It includes essays by environmental scientists, historians, economists, geographers, anthropologists, animal scientists, and archaeologists, and it is nothing if not symmetrical in its coverage—six of the essays being about foodcrops and six about livestock. Furthermore, the volume's temporal sweep matches its disciplinary breadth; the time frames of the essays range from the Neolithic in Southeast Asia to the present day.
That four of the six essays about foodcrops deals in one way or another with rice is no surprise given that cereal's importance in the region. The remaining essays deal with the agricultural importance of sago (the starchy flour made "from the stem pith of various species of soft-centred palms"  in Southeast Asia and Micronesia) and with the diversified character of "traditional" agriculture in the region. Each of these essays is replete with information. Most groundbreaking is the evidence marshaled by Jan Wisseman Christie for a significant long- distance trade in rice in Java and Bali by the eighth or ninth century C.E. and a significant export trade by the eleventh century C.E. Several of the essays in this group, most explicitly Roy Ellen's, make the point that the advent of irrigated rice cultivation did not always lead to the displacement of purportedly less complex agricultural systems in Southeast Asia based upon sago and/or tubers.
Three of the six essays devoted to livestock discuss the often overlooked role of horses and ponies in Southeast Asia; the other three essays treat the region's large ruminants, particularly buffalo and cattle of one type or another. This impressively researched and extremely detailed section is probably more appropriate for—and appealing to—specialists than general readers. Indeed, the entire volume is characterized by the same large virtue and the same small vice.