I am a historian of premodern Indonesia, specialising in Java and Bali. I research the traditional texts of the archipelago, to find new ways of understanding the region's peoples. I teach on the history of Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. I have a particular fascination with how the practice of history varies across different cultures. I am currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the École française d’Extrême-Orient (Paris) as a member of the project DHARMA.
The Precarious Past
How Texts Shape History in the Premodern World
People have practised history throughout the world. While we have become more aware of historical practices outside Western traditions, we still have much to learn about how and why history was practised differently in different cultures. Drawing on detailed studies of Javanese historical texts and traditions between 500 and 1500, I propose a new way of understanding the practice of history itself. This project finds that history is profoundly shaped by contingent factors: the survival of texts, the stability of institutions, and the interplay of orality, memory, and literacy.
The Growth of Institutions in Early Java
The island of Java hosted a rich and thriving society in the medieval period. From the 8th century onwards, Javanese life came to be organised through key institutions: village corporations, judicial systems, religious foundations, complex bureaucracies and royal leadership. This project engages closely with Javanese inscriptions of the period to develop new insights into how these institutions emerged and evolved. My findings shed light on how states and civilisation grew on the world's most populous island.
Natural Disasters in Premodern Indonesia
Natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions played a major role in early Indonesian history. But our understanding of the history of natural disasters in the region is limited by the available sources. Direct sources for disaster history in Indonesia are few and far between, and those which do survive are difficult to interpret. This project draws on many different kinds of source, from chronicles to temple ruins, from divination calendars to traditional paintings, in order to advance new approaches to the history of natural disaster.