Power and Prowess : The origins of Brooke kingship in Sarawak book cover
1st Edition

Power and Prowess
The origins of Brooke kingship in Sarawak

ISBN 9780824825003
Published April 1, 2002 by Routledge
320 Pages

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Book Description

A significant reinterpretation of Sarawak history, Power and Prowess explores the network of power, economic and ritual relationships that developed on the northwest coast of Borneo in the mid-nineteenth century, from which a coalition led by James Brooke established the state of Sarawak.

Where many authors placed Brooke in the context of nineteenth century British imperialism, this study perceives him in the context of Bornean cultures and political economies. Brooke emerges from the historical record as a 'man of prowess', with the author identifying important ritual sources of Brooke's power among Malays, Bidayuh and Ibans, sources which derived from and expressed indigenous cultural traditions about fertility, health and status.

Drawing on conceptual frameworks from political science, as well as recent southeast Asian historiography, Power and Prowess offers a detailed political history of the period and new interpretations of Brooke's career. This study also retrieves from the historical sources previously concealed narratives which reflect the interests, priorities and activities of Sarawak people themselves.

J.H. WALKER lectures in political science at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

Table of Contents


Maps and genealogies

Spelling, weights and measures




Approaching 19th-century Sarawak

1 Power and prowess in northwest Borneo

2 Insurgency and the foundations of Brooke power

3 Integration and exclusion in the early Brooke state

4 The Iban challenge

5 Competition, resistance and ritual in patron-client systems

6 Chinese power and the failure of prowess

7 The Rejang basin

8 The succession to Sarawak

9 'Doing honour to the Rajah'




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Dr John Walker is a Lecturer in Politics at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, Australia. He is the author of numerous articles on the history of Sarawak and also Australia's strategic policy and planning.