Mangkunagara I (1726–95) was one of the most flamboyant figures of 18th-century Java. A charismatic rebel from 1740 to 1757 and one of the foremost military commanders of his age, he won the loyalty of many followers. He was also a devout Muslim of the Mystic Synthesis style, a devotee of Javanese culture and a lover of beautiful women and Dutch gin. His enemies—the Surakarta court, his uncle the rebel and later Sultan Mangkubumi of Yogyakarta and the Dutch East India Company—were unable to subdue him, even when they united against him. In 1757 he settled as a semi-independent prince in Surakarta, pursuing his objective of as much independence as possible by means other than war, a frustrating time for a man who was a fighter to his fingertips. Professor Ricklefs here employs an extraordinary range of sources in Dutch and Javanese—among them Mangkunagara I’s voluminous autobiographical account of his years at war, the earliest autobiography in Javanese so far known—to bring this important figure to life. As he does so, our understanding of Java’s devastating civil war of the mid-18th century is transformed and much light is shed on Islam and culture in Java.
Merle Ricklefs is a senior and highly respected scholar of Indonesian history. Over the course of his career, he held positions at held positions at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, All Souls College (Univ. of Oxford), Monash University, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, and the National University of Singapore. He is the author of a standard textbook entitled A History of Modern Indonesia since c. 1300 (Palgrave), and has published a large number of books and articles.