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Republic of Indonesia, island republic of Southeast Asia, constituting most of the Malay Archipelago. Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country after China, India, and the United States. More than half the people live on Java, where Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital and largest city, is located. Although the islands are home to more than 100 ethnic groups, most Indonesians are of mixed Malay origins and practice Islam.

Several of Indonesia’s islands hosted powerful trading kingdoms between the 5th and 16th centuries ad. The Dutch took control of the islands in the early 1600s and for three centuries profited from Indonesia’s economy, largely at the expense of the local population. Dutch authority over the islands peaked in the early 20th century. But growing Indonesian nationalism led to a declaration of independence in 1945, and the Dutch finally transferred sovereignty in 1949. The country enjoyed tremendous economic growth in the 1980s and much of the 1990s, partly due to Indonesia’s abundant natural resources and increases in the manufacturing and services sectors. As a result, Indonesia’s middle class grew considerably, but poverty remained widespread. Indonesia plunged into an economic crisis in 1997 that led to significant political changes, including the resignation of President Suharto, who had been in office for more than 30 years. Democratic elections held in 1999 installed a new government.


For younger readers

Fisher, Frederick. Indonesia. Gareth Stevens, 2000. For readers in grades 4 to 6.

Mirpuri, Gouri, and Robert Cooper. Indonesia. Benchmark, 2001. For readers in grades 4 to 8.

Art and architecture of Southeast Asia

Dumarcay, Jacques.Trans. Michael Smithies. The Palaces of South-East Asia: Architecture and Customs. Oxford University Press, 1991. Extensive history of the royal architecture of Southeast Asia.

Girard-Geslan, Maud, ed.Trans. J. A. Underwood. Art of Southeast Asia. Abrams, 1998. Scholarly essays cover all regions; copiously illustrated.

Jessup, Helen Ibbitson, and Thierry Zephir, eds. Millennium of Glory: Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia. Thames & Hudson, 1997. Lavishly illustrated catalog of major exhibition of ancient sculpture.

Lee, Sherman E. A History of Far Eastern Art. 5th ed. Abrams, 1994. Standard survey of Asian art.

Rawson, Philip. The Art of Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Burma, Java, Bali. Praeger, 1967. Thames & Hudson, 1990. Useful one-volume overview.

Strachan, Paul. Imperial Pagan: Art and Architecture of Burma. University of Hawaii, 1990. Scholarly study of Burmese Buddhist art forms.

Van Beek, Steve. The Arts of Thailand. Rev. ed. Thames & Hudson, 1991. Tuttle, 1999. Broad examination of Thai art and architecture.

Indonesian music

Brinner, Benjamin Elon. Knowing Music, Making Music: Javanese Gamelan and the Theory of Musical Competence and Interaction. University of Chicago Press, 1995. A scholarly discussion of modern gamelan style and performance.

Lentz, Donald A. The Gamelan Music of Java and Bali. Nebraska, 1965. Books on Demand UMI, n.d. Introduction, makes comparisons with other tonal systems.

Lindsay, Jennifer. Javanese Gamelan: Traditional Orchestra of Indonesia. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 1992. An introduction to the gamelan music of Java; photographs, bibliography, discography.

Malm, William P. Music Cultures of the Pacific, the Near East and Asia. 3rd ed. Prentice Hall, 1996. Includes a section on Indonesian music.

Sorrell, Neil. A Guide to the Gamelan. Amadeus, 1990. The various types of the instrument and their influence on Western music.


Corn, Charles. The Scents of Eden: A Narrative of the Spice Trade. Kodansha, 1998. Spans nearly four centuries, detailing the history and descriptions of islands as fortunes were made and lost in the search for nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and pepper.

Cribb, R. B. Historical Dictionary of Indonesia. Scarecrow, 1992. Comprehensive coverage, with an extensive chronology.

Crouch, Harold. The Army and Politics in Indonesia. Rev. ed. Cornell University Press, 1988. The role of the army since 1960, especially its influence on government policies.

Frederick, William H., and Robert L. Worden, eds. Indonesia: A Country Study. 5th ed. Federal Research Div., L.O.C., 1993. Concise introduction to the geography, history, politics, economics, and culture of Indonesia.

Green, Marshall. Indonesia: Crisis and Transformation 1965-1968. Compass, 1991. Memoir of a United States ambassador to Indonesia describes U.S. policy during the failed coup.

Lewis, Norman. An Empire of the East: Travels in Indonesia. Holt, 1994. Classic narrative revealing history, scenery, culture, and the author's experiences throughout his journey.

Neill, Wilfred T. Twentieth-Century Indonesia. Columbia University Press, 1973.

Penders, C. L. M. The Life and Times of Sukarno. Fairleigh Dickinson, 1974. Policies and impact of the late Indonesian president.

Richter, Anne. Arts and Crafts of Indonesia. Chronicle, 1994. Profiles art forms such as jewelry, ceramics, textiles, puppets, and masks.

Soebadio, Haryati, ed. Art of Indonesia: Puseka. Periplus, 1998. Selections from the National Museum collections presented in beautiful photographs with informative text.

Wild, Colin, and Peter Carey, eds. Born in Fire: The Indonesian Struggle for Independence: An Anthology. Ohio University Press, 1996, 1988. An engaging introduction based on a series of BBC programs in 1985 commemorating the 40th anniversary of Indonesian independence.


Forbes, Dean K., B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Professor, School of Geography, Population and Environmental Management, Flinders University. Author of Asian Metropolis: Urbanisation and the Southeast Asian City and other books.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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