Soul Catcher

Java’s Fiery Prince Mangkunagara I, 1726–95

Merle C. Ricklefs

  • Published: 2018
  • Pages: 432 pp.
  • 3 colour images, 16 b/w images, 4 maps, 1 genealogy chart
  • Series: ASAA Southeast Asia series
  • Series number:
Available from NIAS Press in Europe
ISBN Paperback: 978-87-7964-256-4, £25 ()

About the book

• Superlative history of a pivotal figure in the history of 18th-century Java.
• Completely changes our understanding the turbulent history of Java in the mid-18th century.

Mangkunagara I (1726–95) was one of the most flamboyant figures of 18th-century Java. A charismatic rebel from 1740 to 1757 and one of the foremost military commanders of his age, he won the loyalty of many followers. He was also a devout Muslim of the Mystic Synthesis style, a devotee of Javanese culture and a lover of beautiful women and Dutch gin. His enemies—the Surakarta court, his uncle the rebel and later Sultan Mangkubumi of Yogyakarta and the Dutch East India Company—were unable to subdue him, even when they united against him. In 1757 he settled as a semi-independent prince in Surakarta, pursuing his objective of as much independence as possible by means other than war, a frustrating time for a man who was a fighter to his fingertips. Professor Ricklefs here employs an extraordinary range of sources in Dutch and Javanese—among them Mangkunagara I’s voluminous autobiographical account of his years at war, the earliest autobiography in Javanese so far known—to bring this important figure to life. As he does so, our understanding of Java’s devastating civil war of the mid-18th century is transformed and much light is shed on Islam and culture in Java.

Critical acclaim:

“This book convincingly provides readers a very rich biography of this flamboyant man based on first hand Javanese primary sources, including Sĕrat Babad Pakunĕgaran, and the VOC archives.” – Oman Fathurahman, Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University

“Ricklefs’ captivating narrative vividly displays his unparalled command and careful use of primary sources from both the Dutch colonial and the royal Javanese archives.” – Nancy Florida, University of Michigan

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About the author

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Merle Ricklefs is a senior and highly respected scholar of Indonesian history. Over the course of his career, he held positions at held positions at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, All Souls College (Univ. of Oxford), Monash University, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, and the National University of Singapore.

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by Tim Hannigan
From journal: Asian Review of Books
This is a formal academic work, replete with footnotes and weighted with appendices, but it is delivered with the sharp prose and flashes of color and humor that have always made Ricklefs’s books eminently readable.