Bob Reece, The White Rajahs of Sarawak, a Borneo Dynasty.Bob Reece Robert Scott Reece (born January 5 1951 in Sacramento, California) was a catcher in Major League Baseball. Teams
"What good is a book without pictures?" complained Alice. There are plenty of pictures in Bob Reece's new history of the three Rajah Brookes, enough to satisfy a child of any age. Many are rare, and they are splendidly chosen and arranged, and handsomely reproduced in large format.
In an age where the visual is coming to supplant the written word altogether, we ought to turn the Alice Principle around and remember that to understand and enjoy the pictures we need a text. Reece's words do more than justice to the graphic element and themselves are a great pleasure and instruction.
As anybody who cooks knows, the way to perfect a dish is to make it many times. Reece is a scholar who does not cultivate novelty for its own sake. Since he debuted with The Name of Brooke nearly twenty-five years ago, Reece has specialized in the history of the Brooke Raj Brooke Raj
(1841–1946) Dynasty of British rajas that ruled Sarawak (now a state in Malaysia) for a century. Sir James Brooke (1803–68) served with the British East India Company and fought in the first Anglo-Burmese War (1824–26) before using his family and the lives of the Rajahs. Over the years, in his analytical introductions to the primary works of Keppel, Charles Brooke, and St. John, in articles and books dealing with specific segments of Sarawak history, Reece has patiently been digging up facts and fitting them into their place in the larger picture. Effectively, Reece has told the story of the Brookes many times, and at each repetition, as he has re-evaluated events and personalities, this story becomes clearer and more cohesive, until I think we can say that Reece's view of Brooke Sarawak has now become the communis opinio.
The White Rajahs is intended to be a popular, not a scholarly book. No footnotes nor fulsome bibliography burden it. Rajahs is all the better for being popular: Reece's prose is always elegant, clear, well-paced, his narrative entertaining. The book flows so well that one has to force oneself to scrutinize the text pedantically pe·dan·tic
Characterized by a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book learning and formal rules: a pedantic attention to details. to understand the astonishing a·ston·ish
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise. erudition er·u·di·tion
Deep, extensive learning. See Synonyms at knowledge.
Erudition of editors—Hare.
Noun 1. that went into it, the density of information, and how well it is all arranged. I do not hesitate to call The White Rajahs the very best general introduction to Sarawak history. One high merit of Reece's history is that he gives people eager to learn about Sarawak a place to start, and directs them to where they can find out more. The pictures give great help to the enquiring reader. Sarawak history played itself out with a large cast of characters, and if historical persons have faces as well as names, they are easier to keep straight. Also helpful is a timeline of important dates and incidents, and a full genealogy of the Brooke and Johnson families.
Sarawak's history was voluminously being written even as the state first came into being, and it continued being added to and revised up to the end of the Raj. (Revisionism re·vi·sion·ism
1. Advocacy of the revision of an accepted, usually long-standing view, theory, or doctrine, especially a revision of historical events and movements.
2. frisks now also under Malaysia.) It is hard to get a clear impression of where Sarawak was moving from these early documents; they give the impression that nearly up to the end of Rajah Charles's reign Sarawak was struggling for mere survival. Now, sixty years after Rajah Vyner gave his country to the British, forty years after the formation of Malaysia, what is the broad view of Sarawak's 100 years under the Brookes that Reece has done so much to bring into focus? His introduction to Rajahs gives the main points.
The overarching pattern to Reece's Rajahs is displayed in the contrasting characters of the three Rajahs: "charismatic" James, who fulfilled a cherished fantasy and created his state, Charles the "bureaucratic builder," and the dynasty coming to an end in Vyner the "feckless feck·less
1. Lacking purpose or vitality; feeble or ineffective.
2. Careless and irresponsible.
[Scots feck, effect (alteration of effect) + -less. hedonist he·don·ism
1. Pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses.
2. Philosophy The ethical doctrine holding that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good. ." It is, as Reece says, a tropical Forsythe Saga. Reece is at his best when he essays psychological portraits of the Rajahs, the Ranees, and the many lesser actors, such as MacBryan, all of them eccentrics. Character shows up still sharply in the small world that is Sarawak.
It is remarkable that alone of all the attempts at "freelance imperialism" in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, region of Asia (1990 est. pop. 442,500,000), c.1,740,000 sq mi (4,506,600 sq km), bounded roughly by the Indian subcontinent on the west, China on the north, and the Pacific Ocean on the east. , only the Brookes succeeded and indeed, thrived. Imperialists the Brookes may indeed have been; they were certainly a peculiar breed of imperialists. They and their officers did not distance themselves from the people they ruled--"the relationship between governors and governed was a highly personal one"--and while both James and Charles did not scruple scruple: see English units of measurement. to use violence and the statecraft state·craft
The art of leading a country: "They placed free access to scientific knowledge far above the exigencies of statecraft" Anthony Burgess.
Noun 1. of "divide and rule" to establish their government, on the whole they ruled through influence and with respect for the natives and their customs. While every other colonizing power in SE Asia worked to develop plantations and turn their subjects into plantation-workers, the Brookes moved in the exact opposite direction and jealously protected their people from foreign exploitation. Sarawak itself is the Brookes' creation. Despite attempts to interpret it differently, Brooke rule emerges for the most part as beneficent be·nef·i·cent
1. Characterized by or performing acts of kindness or charity.
2. Producing benefit; beneficial.
[Probably from beneficenceon the model of such pairs as . The benign influence of the Brookes still lives on in Sarawak's racial tolerance, broad outlook, and freedom from anti-colonial cant and resentments that have caused so much deplorable havoc elsewhere. (Otto Steinmayer, P.O. Box 13, 94500 Lundu, Sarawak, Malaysia)