A Centennial Appreciation of Harry J. Benda: A Czech Pioneer of Southeast Asian Studies
- Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
- Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
- Volume 93, Part 1, No. 318, June 2020
- pp. 91-116
- Additional Information
This article commemorates the centennial of Harry J. Benda (1919–1971), a legendary figure of Southeast Asian Studies of Czechoslovak origin. As a young man, to escape the Nazi threat in Europe, Benda fled to Java. He spent seven formative years in the Indies, including internment in a Japanese camp, where he decided to pursue an academic career, focussing on the history of Indonesia. He received his university education in New Zealand and Cornell University, and to crown his achievements became a professor at Yale and served as founding director of the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. He researched Islam in Indonesian society, the Japanese occupation, the rise of Communism and nationalism and the decolonization processes in Southeast Asia, and was known for his innovative approach to the study of the regional and social history. He wrote a number of books and dozens of articles, with The Crescent and the Rising Sun (1958) being his most acclaimed work.