M. C. Ricklefs

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Merle Calvin Ricklefs AM, FAHA (born 1943) is a scholar of the history and current affairs of Indonesia.[1] He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University under the supervision of O. W. Wolters. He has held positions at School of Oriental and African Studies, All Souls College, Monash University, Australian National University and University of Melbourne. Ricklefs recently retired from the Professorship of Southeast Asian history at the National University of Singapore.[2]

Academic career

His publications have focused on the history of Mataram, Kartasura, Yogyakarta, Surakarta, locations in Central Java. He has also regularly updated his history of Indonesia - A History of Modern Indonesia, ca. 1300 to the present. Professor Ricklefs has dedicated most of his academic career to understanding how Indonesian society reacted to both the European presence (in his earlier works) and the spread of Islam (in his later works), with an emphasis on cultural as well as political history. Few other living English speaking writers can claim the scope of his knowledge of the history of Java from the 17th to the 21st century.

In 2010 he edited and co-authored the New History of Southeast Asia, which continues the work of his friend and mentor D.G.E. Hall, who first published his own History of South East Asia in 1955.

From 2004 to 2015, Professor Ricklefs was sectional editor for Southeast Asia for the new 3rd edition of Encyclopaedia of Islam (16 vols., now appearing in fascicules). He is currently a member of the editorial boards of History Today, Studia Islamika, Journal of Indonesian Islam and Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. He co-edits the monograph series Handbook of Oriental Studies/Handbuch der Orientalistik and Brill’s Southeast Asia Library (SEAL).

Observations on warfare

In his book War, Culture and Economy, he observed a general pattern regarding foreign military interventions. Professor Ricklefs noted that there is a “significant link between the transfer of military technology and questions of cultural identity” but said that he was not proposing a sort of “Ricklefs’ Rule”. He observed that in wars of intervention or invasion, where social and economic circumstances on both the local side and an intervening side with superior military (especially infantry) technology were such as to facilitate the transfer of technology, then the intervention was likely to produce a strengthening of cultural and political identities and lead to successful resistance to the foreign force. Thus, the wars of 17th and 18th century Java, with both sides pre-industrial, were unlike the colonial wars of the 19th and early 20th centuries in Asia, Africa and parts of the Americas, where the industrialized military technology of colonial invaders (machine guns, high explosives, barbed wire, etc.) often led to collapses of morale and an end to resistance on the local, pre-industrialized, side. Those earlier wars were more like post-World War II wars where the foreign invaders’ superior infantry technology has been readily transferred to Vietnamese, Indonesian, Afghan, Iraqi and other local peoples, leading to prolonged and successful resistance.

Honors and awards

In 1989 Ricklefs was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.[3]

The Government of Australia awarded him in 2001 the Centenary Medal for service to Australian society and the humanities in the study of Indonesia.[4]

In 2010 he was elected as an erelid (Honorary Member) of the Netherlands Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, one of only eight people currently recognised in this way.

He was awarded the 2015 George McT. Kahin Prize of the Association for Asian Studies, ‘given biennially to an outstanding scholar of Southeast Asian studies from any discipline or country specialization to recognize distinguished scholarly work on Southeast Asia beyond the author's first book’ for his work Islamisation and its opponents in Java: A political, social, cultural and religious history, c. 1930 to the present (2012).

In 2016 the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture presented Professor Ricklefs with its prestigious Cultural Award (Penghargaan Kebudayaan).

In June 2017, Professor Ricklefs was made a member of the Order of Australia.[5]

Civil and human rights activity

In the early 1980s Ricklefs became deeply involved in education for indigenous Australians, acting as the driving force behind and co-founding the Monash Orientation Scheme for Aborigines, the first bridging program for Aboriginal people in an Australian university. This aimed to prepare Aboriginal students, who suffered from great educational disadvantage, for university study. The scheme was a runaway success and by the time Ricklefs left Monash in 1993 it had been responsible for roughly doubling the number of Aboriginal university graduates.[6]

Professor Ricklefs was also involved in the 1980s ‘immigration debate’ in Australia, which was sparked when his counterpart at the University of Melbourne, Professor Geoffrey Blainey, argued that Australia should limit Asian immigration. This came only a little over a decade after Australia had ended its controversial White Australia immigration policy. Ricklefs published, with Andrew Markus, a critique of Blainey’s views entitled Surrender Australia? Essays in the Study and Uses of History (Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1984).


Major Publications
Sole-authored books
  • Jogjakarta under Sultan Mangkubumi, 1749–1792: A history of the division of Java. London Oriental Series, vol. 30. London: Oxford University Press, 1974. xxv + 463 pp.
  • A history of modern Indonesia, ca. 1300 to the present. London & Basingstoke: Macmillan; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981. xv + 335 pp., ISBN 0-333-24380-3
  • Sejarah Indonesia modern. Transl. Dharmono Hardjowidjono. Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press, 1991. xiv + 501pp. (Revised Indonesian edition of A History of modern Indonesia.)
  • War, culture and economy in Java, 1677–1726: Asian and European imperialism in the early Kartasura period. Sydney: Asian Studies Association of Australia in association with Allen and Unwin, 1993. xvii + 425 pp.
  • A history of modern Indonesia since c.1300. 2nd ed. Basingstoke & London: Macmillan; Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993. xiii + 378 pp.
  • The seen and unseen worlds in Java, 1726–49: History, literature and Islam in the court of Pakubuwana II. St. Leonards NSW: The Asian Studies Association of Australia in association with Allen and Unwin; Honolulu: The University of Hawai’i Press, 1998. xxiv + 391pp.
  • A history of modern Indonesia since c. 1200. 3rd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave; Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. xviii + 495 pp.
  • Yogyakarta di bawah Sultan Mangkubumi, 1749-1792: Sejarah pembagian Jawa. Transl. Hartono Hadikusumo & E. Setiyawati Alkhatab. Ed. Revianto Budi Santosa. Yogyakarta: MataBangsa, 2002. xxiii + 725 pp. (Revised Indonesian edition of Jogjakarta under Sultan Mangkubumi.)
  • Sejarah Indonesia modern 1200-2004. Transl. Satrio Wahono et al. Ed. Husni Syawie and M.C. Ricklefs. Jakarta: Serambi, 2005. 783 pp. (Revised Indonesian edition of the 3rd English edition of A History of modern Indonesia.)
  • Mystic synthesis in Java: A history of Islamisation from the fourteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. White Plains, NY: Eastbridge, 2006. xv + 263 pp.
  • Polarising Javanese society: Islamic and other visions c.1830-1930. Singapore: Singapore University Press; Leiden: KITLV Press; Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2007. xvii + 297 pp.
  • A history of modern Indonesia since c. 1200. 4th ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan; Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008. xviii + 492 pp.
  • Sejarah Indonesia modern 1200-2008. Ed. Moh. Sidik Nugraha and M. C. Ricklefs. Jakarta: Serambi, 2008. xx + 865 pp. (Revised Indonesian edition of the 4th English edition of A History of modern Indonesia.)
  • Islamisation and its opponents in Java: A political, social, cultural and religious history, c. 1930 to the present. Singapore: National University of Singapore Press; Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2012. xxi + 576 pp.
  • (16) Mengislamkan Jawa: Sejarah Islamisasi di Jawa dan penentangnya dari 1930 sampai sekarang. Transl. FX Dono Sunardi and Satrio Wahono. Ed. M. C. Ricklefs. Jakarta: Serambi, 2013. 887 pp. (Revised Indonesian edition of Islamisation and its opponents)
Co-authored book
  • Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: A catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections by M. C. Ricklefs and P. Voorhoeve. London Oriental Bibliographies, vol. 5. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977. xxix + 237 pp.
  • Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: A catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections; New edition with addenda et corrigenda by M.C. Ricklefs, P. Voorhoeve† and Annabel Teh Gallop. Jakarta: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia, Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia, 2014. xiii* + xxx + 352 pp.
Co-authored and edited books
  • A New history of Southeast Asia by M. C. Ricklefs, Bruce Lockhart, Albert Lau, Portia Reyes and Maitrii Aung-Thwin. Ed. M. C. Ricklefs. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. xxxi + 536 pp.

(Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2011)

  • Sejarah Asia Tenggara: Dari masa prasejarah sampai kontemporer by M.C. Ricklefs, Bruce Lockhart, Albert Lau, Portia Reyes and Maitrii Aung-Thwin. Jakarta: Komunitas Bambu, 2013. xlviii + 826 pp. (Indonesian edition of A New history of Southeast Asia)
  • Asal usul nama Yogyakarta & Malioboro by Peter Carey, Jacobus (Koos) Noorduyn† and M. C. Ricklefs. Ed. Peter Carey. Jakarta: Komunitas Bambu, 2015. [x] + 110 pp.
Edited and translated book
  • Pantheism and monism in Javanese suluk literature: Islamic and Indian mysticism in an Indonesian setting, by P.J. Zoetmulder, S.J. Ed. and transl. M.C. Ricklefs. Leiden: KITLV Press, 1995. xvii + 381 pp.
Edited volumes
  • Chinese Muslims in Java in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: Malay Annals of Sĕmarang and Cĕrbon by H.J. de Graaf and Th. G. Th. Pigeaud. Clayton: Monash Papers on Southeast Asia no. 12, 1984. xiii + 221 pp.
  • (co-editor with Andrew Markus). Surrender Australia? Essays in the study and uses of history: Geoffrey Blainey and Asian immigration. Sydney, etc.: George Allen & Unwin, 1985. viii + 149 pp.
  • (co-editor with David P. Chandler). Nineteenth and twentieth century Indonesia: Essays in honour of Professor J.D. Legge. Clayton: Monash Papers on Southeast Asia no. 14, 1986. vii + 281 pp.
  • Islam in the Indonesian social context. Annual Indonesian lecture series no. 15. Clayton: Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University, 1991. iii + 82 pp.
  • Cina Muslim di Jawa abad XV dan XVI antara historisitas dan mitos. H. J. de Graaf dkk. Pengantar M. C. Ricklefs. Yogya: PT Tiara Wacana, 1998. xxxiii+ 217pp. (Indonesian translation of Chinese Muslims in Java)
Web publication
  • (co-editor with Nindya Noegraha). Bramartani 1864-1893. Romanised transcriptions of this Javanese newspaper published in Surakarta, with introduction by Nindya Noegraha and M.C. Ricklefs. Available at http://documents.kitlv.gridminer.nl/library/TS/Bramartani/bramartani.html[permanent dead link]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-02-27. Retrieved 2007-05-15.  Southeast Asian Collection held at University of Cambridge Cambridge University Library
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. Retrieved 2015-04-03. 
  3. ^ "Merle Ricklefs". Australian Academy of the Humanities. Retrieved 2 March 2018. 
  4. ^ http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/awards/medals/centenary_medal.cfm
  5. ^ https://www.humanities.org.au/2017/06/13/fellows-recognised-queens-birthday-2017-honours-list/
  6. ^ Davison, G . & Murphy, K. University Unlimited: The Monash Story (Melbourne 2012) 173-175

External links

  • Homepage at National University of Singapore
  • Biography at Australian Academy of Humanities
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