Analysing Pre-modern Malay Political Systems: From Raffles to Shaharil Talib

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    In this chapter, Anthony Milner seeks to define the contribution of Shaharil Talib to the study of pre-modern Malay political systems. His essay outlines the extraordinary range of analytical approaches employed over the years up to Shaharil’s time. Beginning with the work of Thomas Stamford Raffles and John Crawfurd two centuries ago, then considering such later scholar-officials as Hugh Clifford and Richard Winstedt, and finally noting the influence of different anthropological and Marxist-influenced perspectives developed in the post-colonial period, the chapter then examines the major study on Terengganu, which Shaharil published. Milner’s main focus is on the significant shifts and contests in the historiography of pre-colonial Malay societies, seeking to show in particular where Shaharil’s endeavours can be appropriately positioned. In Milner’s view, Shaharil was innovatory in adopting a diachronic approach—portraying the Malay states as societies in motion, and focusing on elite strategies, which Shaharil sees as driven by a quest for wealth. Milner notes that Shaharil’s conclusions, and the interpretive framework which he employed, have provoked scholarly debate—and this, Milner says, underlines the fact that Shaharil produced a classic work in the field of Malay history.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationContesting Malaysia's Integration into the World Economy
    Editors Rajaj Rasiah; Azirah Hashim; jatswan S. Sidhu
    Place of PublicationSingapore
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan, Singapore
    ISBN (Print)978-991-16-0649-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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