This essay focuses on the political, economic, and cultural history of North Borneo (East Malaysia). I discuss the settlement of Borneo, the kingdoms that ruled the island, the cultural history of the Iban people, the rule of Sarawak by the Brooke family (the White Rajahs, 1841-1946), direct British colonial rule (1946-1963), and political and change in Sarawak as part of Malaysia (1963-present). I wrote these lectures for a Stanford Travel/Study program in North Borneo in October 2011.
I first discuss the settlement of Borneo (40,000-2000 BCE) and contrast the cultures, wealth, and decline of three kingdoms – Srivijaya, Majapahit, and Melaka – that ruled Borneo (7th-16th centuries). Thereafter, I focus on Sarawak in North (Malaysian) Borneo and on the culture and agricultural practices of the Iban, Sarawak’s largest ethnic group. I then look at the rule of Sarawak by the White Rajahs – how James Brooke became Rajah, how Charles Brooke created a viable economy, and why Vyner Brooke ceded Sarawak to Britain in 1946. Lastly, I examine how Taib Mahmud controls independent Sarawak and why resource development creates conflicts. I append a time line, a bibliography, and a description of sites that I visited in North Borneo.The World Less Traveled by Private Jet, Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan), Iban, Borneo Suitcase Seminar, Aboard the Orient Pandaw, Kuching, Sibu, Kanowit, Kapit, Bangun Kecil, Sarikei, Kampung Rajang, Kota Kinabalu,