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Anthony Reid and the Study of the Southeast East Asian Past Geoff Wade and Li Tana (EDS) Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 2012. 400 pp. ISBN 978-9814-31-196-0 (paperback)

This Festschrift presented by some of his colleagues and students is a fitting tribute to the outstanding contributions of Anthony J. S. Reid (better known to friends and family as Tony Reid) to the field of Southeast Asian history. In his writing and research, Tony Reid applied his liberal values, creativity and insights into reworking methodologies and models on Indonesia and Southeast Asia's past.His research interests began on 19th-century Aceh, then shifted to the period of the Indonesian Revolution (1945-6), and finally to Southeast Asia in the pre-colonial period. In his first book, based on his doctoral thesis presented at the University of Cambridge (The Contest for Northern Sumatra: Atjeh, the Netherlands and Britain, 1858-1898), following the autonomous approach to Southeast Asian history of J. C. van Leur and John Smail, he showed how Aceh achieved a distinct political identity despite falling under Dutch rule. He then went on to explore how revolution eliminated ancien regimes in Aceh and Northern Sumatra (The Blood of the People: Revolution and the End of Traditional Rule in Northern Sumatra), and focused his attention on slavery and bondage, on the origins of poverty in Southeast Asia, and on a 'new paradigm', according to the editors of this volume (Geoff Wade and Li Tana), in 'extending the scope of Southeast Asian history beyond the confines of palaces and kratons to the lives of the farmer and the petty trader and for bringing a regional coherence to the previously disparate and dispersed studies of early modern Southeast Asia'.

One of the contributors, Robert Cribb, assesses Tony Reid's achievements and contributions in his highly acclaimed major work, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450-1680, which was published in two volumes, in 1988 and 1998. In adapting French historian Fernand Braudel's model of the Mediterranean region to maritime Southeast Asia with an interesting past and rich in commercial, cultural [End Page 122] and social interaction, Reid unfolded its vibrancy, similarities and diversity. According to Cribb, he revealed that Southeast Asia's genius lay in its eclectic recruitment of outside ideas and people to enrich the region culturally and materially, but 'on terms decided by Southeast Asians themselves'. His second contribution was his controversial assertion that Southeast Asian women enjoyed a relatively high social standing as well as individual freedom and access to political and economic power in early Southeast Asia. Reid's third contribution was that Southeast Asians had developed a genius for managing without powerful states, an issue also studied by American scholar James C. Scott in his recent work.

Now aged 73, Tony Reid is currently Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, and the recipient of several honours and awards from the global academic community. His first teaching position at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur was from 1965 to 1969, before leaving to take up the post of Senior Research Fellow at the Research School of Pacific and Southeast Asian Studies at ANU, where he was appointed Professor of Southeast Asian History in 1989. Later he went on to become foundation professor of two other centres of Southeast Asian studies—University of California in Los Angeles and the National University of Singapore.

The essays in this volume by the foremost historians on Southeast Asia are closely related to Tony Reid's academic interests. Victor Lieberman's essay, inspired by Reid's model of Southeast Asia as a 'coherent region', looks at 'synchronized parallels' and 'cycles' of consolidation, collapse and revivals between Europe and the region in the period 800-1800. Bold enough to admit that he is making 'large claims', Lieberman invites scholars to debate them. In another comparative essay, Wang Gungwu views the region historically as only partially comparable to the Braudellian Mediterranean syndrome of war and division. However, he regards it as a 'potential frontline' for either conflict or regional peace as older and newer maritime powers confront the rise...


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pp. 122-124
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