My principal saviour during my time as a graduate and research student at Oxford in the mid to late 1970s was Professor Merle Ricklefs (1943-2019), who was then teaching Southeast Asian history at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) in London (1969-79).[4] I had first met him in Yogyakarta in 1972-73 when I was still a callow graduate student working for my Oxford PhD on ‘Pangeran Dipanagara and the Making of the Java War, 1825-30’ and living in the dalem (princely residence) of Pangeran Tejokusumo (1893-1974) and learning Javanese. I doubt that I made a very good impression on him in that first meeting. I was intensely ambitious and woefully ill-equipped for serious scholarly research.[5] But our friendship took off after the publication of his magisterial study of Yogyakarta’s first Sultan, Mangkubumi (r. 1749-92) in May 1974.[6] I remember sitting in the garden of my mother’s house in Surrey, UK, over two memorable summer days in June of that year reading Merle’s book from cover-to-cover without a break. ‘This is totally amazing”, I thought to myself, “and exactly what I want to do for my Diponegoro study!” From that moment Merle became a beacon and a benchmark for me. He set the bar for historical scholarship, his painstaking historical narrative based on the Dutch colonial archives and Javanese chronicles (babad) constituting a ‘gold standard’ for Javanese studies. This is something that all historians of pre-colonial Java should aspire to but rarely achieve, particularly here in Indonesia where the debased currency of project-driven history (sejarah proyek-proyek) tends to take precedence over painstaking archival research.

Merle Calvin Ricklefs (1943-2019), renowned historian of Java and Southeast Asia, as he was in the mid-1970s when he was acting as my informal supervisor at Oxford and external thesis examiner (November 1975). Image courtesy of Monash University, 1979.

So, the years passed, and a deep friendship and collegiality developed between us. Merle was always very much my senior in status and professional standing—he was my informal Oxford DPhil supervisor and examiner (November 1975), and our relationship mirrored that of Pangeran Mangkubumi to Raden Mas Said (Mangkunegoro I) during the Third Javanese War of Succession (1746-57). Thankfully, however, no rift ever developed between us akin to that which separated the first Yogyakarta ruler and his mercurial ally.[7] Instead, our friendship steadily deepened and we began to find a number of uncanny parallels between our lives. Both of us, for example, experienced the joys and sorrows of having younger children with multiple physical challenges, who predeceased us. We were also fated to build our professional careers as Southeast Asia historians at a time when interest and public funding for such studies were fast receding in the aftermath of Second Vietnam War (1964-73) when the United States withdrew its military forces from Indochina. Finally, we both entered the world of Javanese history through in-depth biographical studies of two of late pre-colonial Java’s greatest historical figures—Sultan Mangkubumi (1717-92; r. 1749-92) and Prince Diponegoro (1785-1855).

Two other seminal experiences for my training as an historian of Southeast Asia and Java in particular, were my brief year as a graduate student at Cornell University in 1969-70, and my subsequent two years in Java, where, after a three-month stint in the National Archives (October-December 1971), I came to live—for free (my landlady, Ibu Kusumobroto/Raden Ayu Sriningdyah, daughter-in-law of Gusti Tejokusumo,  never charged me any rent)—in the princely residence of the Tejokusuman in Yogyakarta (1971-73). I will deal briefly with this latter period first.

Peter Carey in Javanese dress with his landlady, Ibu Kusumobroto (Raden Ayu Sriningdyah), her son, Raden Mas Widuro (Mas Wid) (extreme left), and PC’s late first wife, Raden Ayu Koesmarlinah (1940-2000) in the Tejokusuman, 1972. Foto koleksi Peter Carey.

My years at the Tejokusuman, which also doubled as the location of the Krida Beksa Wirama dance, drama and music (karawitan) school (1918) founded by Gusti (Bendoro Pangeran Ario) Tejokusumo (1893-1974), son of Sultan Hamengkubuwono VII (r.1877-1921), truly immersed me in Javanese culture. Every day there were dance practices in the pendopo and the music of the gamelan flowed through the Ndalem (princely residence) like ‘moonlight and flowing water’ in the words of the French composer, Claude Debussy (1862-1918).[8] At weekends there would sometimes be full-scale dance performances which extended my understanding of Javanese traditional dance forms and drama. It also introduced me to the world of Javanese kebatinan (science of the inner) via my association with one of the Yogyakarta-based co-founders of the Paguyuban Sumarah kebatinan organisation, Pak Suhardo.[9] Since I have written about some of these experiences elsewhere in connection with my involuntary contact with the world of the Javanese ancestors (leluhur),[10] this is not the place to dwell on these non-academic influences on my intellectual formation as a Javanist. Whatever view one may hold about such contacts with the spirit world, I am sure that my former Oxford supervisor, Richard Cobb, would have heartily approved of this immersion, seeing these experiences as a necessary rite de passage for the development of my ‘second identity’ as an historian of modern Java!

Every day there were dance practices in the pendopo and the music of the gamelan flowed through the Ndalem (princely residence) like ‘moonlight and flowing water’ in the words of the French composer, Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

So, for present purposes, I will stick here with those from whom I benefitted directly in a more practical—academic, linguistic and research-related—sense. There were four such individuals in Indonesia during my time as a research/graduate student in 1971-73 and 1976-77. To this day I feel an abiding sense of gratitude to all of them. Two helped me materially with my archival and manuscript research. The first was Pak Sundoyo, a long-time assistant archivist at ANRI (Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia), then situated in the magnificent old archive building—formerly the residence (buitenplaats/country estate) of the late-eighteenth-century Governor-General, Reynier de Klerck (1710-80;  in office, 1777-80)—at Jalan Gajahmada no.111. He had worked under the last Dutch landsarchivaris (state archivist), Dr Frans Rijndert Johan Verhoeven (1905-87; in office, 1937-42), and had an exceptional knowledge of the colonial archives. So much so that, although, when I was doing my archival research (1971, 1976-77), there were no available finding aids for the colonial and residency archives, and I had no access to the Dutch colonial era filing system (klapper), all I had to do was to give Pak Sundoyo the official (ie original colonial era) reference number of the document I was looking for and within what seemed like the blink of an eye, the document would be on my desk.[11] Indeed, Pak Sundoyo would often come back from the archival depot with other related documents which I had not asked for, but which he thought I might find interesting! This was highly personal and bespoke service. Obviously, I would not get that kind of service today and it was probably only possible then because I was—for most of the time I worked in the Indonesian State Archives (ANRI) (1971, 1976-77)—the only reader there!

My second ‘guardian angel’ was the retired bupati of Bantul, K.R.T. Pusponingrat (died 1985), to whom I dedicated the first volume of my Archive of Yogyakarta published texts in 1980.[12] He made a massive contribution to my research by romanising nearly 5,000 pages of Javanese manuscripts and letters. These included all the materials in the Yogyakarta archives looted by the British following the fall of the Yogyakarta court on 20 June 1812 and now in the British Library, as well as all the key Javanese babad (chronicles) relating to Diponegoro. These latter included the prince’s autobiography written in Manado (1831-32), the Buku Kedhung Kebo (Chronicle of the Buffaloes’ Watering Hole) written on the orders of Diponegoro’s adversary, Raden Adipati Cokronegoro I (1779-1862), the first post-Java War bupati of Purworejo (in office 1831-56),[13] and the court versions of Babad Diponegoro composed in Surakarta by the court poet (pujangga-Dalem), Sosrodipuro II (c.1780-1844),[14] and the three-volume Babad Ngayogyakarta which covers the whole period from 1812 to the 1860s by Diponegoro’s nephew, Pangeran Suryonegoro (1822-c.1886), and his former army commander in Banyumas, Basah Gondokusumo (1810-c.1885; post-1847, Raden Adipati Danurejo V of Yogyakarta, in office 1847-79).[15] The sheer volume of romanised Javanese materials which Pak Puspo prepared for me, all with indexes and short English-language introductions, which I wrote myself, proved an invaluable resource when it came to writing up my thesis. I also had three copies of each of these romanised babad carefully bound by the Percetakan Kanisius in Yogyakarta and distributed to libraries in Leiden and Australia so that they would be available for scholars worldwide.[16]

As with Pak Sundoyo at ANRI, to whom I gave one very modest present of a dress white shirt for the October 1976 Hari Raya Idulfitri, Pak Puspo helped me out of an abiding interest and love of Javanese history, not for pecuniary gain. So, although he was not left out of pocket and I paid for the typewriter and all the paper and other materials he used, financial reward was not the main motivation for his transliteration work. Indeed, the personal contribution of these two remarkable Javanese gentlemen gave me an abiding admiration for the quiet honour and decency of an older Javanese generation (now long departed) and their abiding inspiration drawn from the maxim, ‘sepi ing pamrih, ramé ing gawé, mengayu-ayuning buwono’ (‘someone who helps others sincerely without asking anything in return for the beautification of the world’).


~~~To Be Continued~~~

* Artikel To my teachers: A Reflection on 55 Years of Learning the Historian’s Craft (1964/65 – 2020) ini, bagian ketiga dari 5 seri yang akan dipublikasikan di setiap hari Senin. Artikel ini juga diterbitkan di dalam versi bahasa Indonesia.

[4] In December 1979, Merle moved to Australia where he remained for the rest of his professional academic career, teaching  first at Monash, 1980-93, then at the Australian National University (ANU),  and finally back to Melbourne, where he was respectively Director of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (1993-98) and foundation Director of the Melbourne Institute of Asian Languages and Societies (1998-2005). In October-December 1983 he came to Oxford for a three-month period as a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College.

[5] For a brief insight into Merle’s first impressions of the present writer during his time in the Ndalem Tejokusuman in Yogyakarta (1971-73), see Hera (ed.), Urip iku Urub, pp.xii-xviii.

[6] Merle C. Ricklefs, Jogjakarta under Sultan Mangkubumi, 1749–1792; A history of the division of Java (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974).

[7] Tentang hubungan yang tegang dan pada akhirnya retak antara Pangeran (pasca-1749, Sultan) Mangkubumi dan Raden Mas Said selama Perang Giyanti (1746-57), lihat Merle C. Ricklefs, Samber Nyawa: Kisah Perjuangan Seorang Pahlawan Nasional Indonesia, Pangeran Mangkunagara I (1726-1795) (Jakarta: Penerbit Buku Kompas, 2020), Bab 5.

[8] Debussy first heard Javanese gamelan music at the Paris Universal Exposition (Exposition Universelle) in 1889, and the scales, melodies, rhythms and ensemble textures appealed to him so much that echoes can be found in ‘Pagodes’ in his 1903 piano suite Estampes, a composition for Solo Piano, see Mervyn Cooke, “The East in the West: Evocations of the Gamelan in Western Music”, in Jonathan Bellman (ed.), The Exotic in Western Music (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998), pp.258-60.

[9] For information on Pak Suhardo, the second of Sumarah’s founders, see Paul Stange, ‘The Logic of Rasa in Java’, Indonesia 38 (October 1984), pp.122-23, quoting interview with Pak Suhardo, July 1972; and Id., Kejawen Modern; Hakikat dalam Penghayatan Sumarah (Yogyakarta: LKiS, 2009), pp.17-18, where Stange  discusses Suhardo’s understanding of Hakiki (Truth), which is so central to the Sumarah practice, and is identical to the “guru sejati,” the true teacher, and the figure Dewaruci in Javanese mythology,

[10] Hera (ed.), Urip iku Urub, pp.31-38.

[11] These were often documents relating to the Besluiten van den Gouverneur-Generaal buiten / in rade     (Decisions of the Governor-General taken without or with the presence of the Council of the Indies or Raad van Indië), Kabinets brieven (letters from the royal cabinet /kabinet des konings in the Hague) or a Memorie van Overgave (Final Administrative Report). A list of most of the documents which Pak Sundoyo found for me during the 18 months I worked in ANRI in October-December 1971 and July 1976-June 1977 can be found in Peter Carey, “The Residency Archive of Jogjakarta”, Indonesia 25:115–50.

[12] P.B.R. Carey (ed.), The Archive of Yogyakarta. Vol. I: Documents relating to politics and internal court affairs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980).

[13] See Peter Carey, Sisi Lain Diponegoro; Babad Kedung Kebo dan Historiografi Perang Jawa (Edisi Kedua Jakarta: KPG, 2018)

[14] Peter Carey (ed. and trans.), Babad Dipanagara; A Surakarta Court Poet’s Account of the Outbreak of the Java War (1825-30). Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (MBRAS) Monograph no.9 (Kuala Lumpur: MBRAS [Second revised edition of original 1981 publication], 2020).

[15] Babad Ngayogyakarta. Vol. I–III. Museum Sono Budoyo (Yogyakarta) MS A. 135, A. 136, A. 144. Salinan bertanggal 1833 J (1903 M), 1834 J (1904 M), 1836 J (1906 M). 407 hlm., 336 hlm., 460 hlm., 100 canto, 73 canto, 76 canto. Aslinya ditulis di Yogyakarta oleh Pangeran Suryonegoro dan Raden Adipati Danurejo V, dan diselesaikan pada 1805 J (1876 M).

[16] Three bound copies of each of these manuscripts were made and were distributed to the Australian National University (ANU) Library, the Koninklijk Instituut Library (now Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden/ UBL) in Leiden, and one complete bound set for myself. Pak Puspo kept one unbound copy for himself.

Peter Carey
Peter Carey, yang lahir di Myanmar 30 April 1948, adalah Fellow Emeritus Trinity College, Oxford, dan Adjunct Profesor FIB-UI (Fakultas Ilmu Pengetahuan Budaya, Universitas Indonesia). Karya yang lahir dari sentuhan tangannya antara lain : Burma: The Challenge of Change in a Divided Society (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997); The Power of Prophecy; Prince Dipanagara and the End of an Old Order in Java, 1785-1855. Leiden: KITLV Press, 2007 (terjemahan dalam Bahasa Indonesia, Kuasa Ramalan; Pangeran Diponegoro dan Akhir Tatanan Lama di Jawa, 1785-1855. Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia, 2012); The British in Java, 1811-1816. A Javanese Account. Oxford: OUP Press, 1992. Terjemahan Inggris di Jawa. Jakarta: PBK, 2017). Kemudian beberapa ulasan mengenai dirinya antara lain : buku Urip iku Urub; 40 Tahun Sarjana Lelono di Negara Leluhur. Tulisan yang dipersembahkan kepada Peter Carey untuk HUT ke-70. FX Domini BB Hera (peny.). Jakarta: PBK, Oktober 2018.