Tales of Brunei

Ever wonder what Brunei looked like in the 1850s? Most times, you would have to spend a fortune buying classic books. It's fine if you want to be a collector of those first print edition books. I buy them every now and then but not for my collection but because of the contents inside those books.

However of late, many of those books are now available in reprints. Some are reprints as high class books which can cost about $200 each but most are now reprinted in affordable $30 to $45 price range. Two such books are these written by Captain Henry Keppel who wrote in two volumes, two books entitled A Visit to the Indian Archipelago in HM Ship Meander Volume 1 and Volume 2. You can get these from amazon.co.uk without much problem.

Anyway, information from Wikipedia, Captain Keppel eventually rose to become Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel, GCB, OM was the son of the 4th Earl of Albemarle and of his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Lord de Clifford. He entered the navy from the old naval academy of Portsmouth in 1822. His family connections secured him rapid promotion, at a time when the rise of less fortunate officers was very slow. He became lieutenant in 1829 and commander in 1833. His first command was largely passed on the coast of Spain, which was then in the midst of the convulsions of the Carlist War. Captain Keppel had already made himself known as a good seaman. He was engaged with the squadron stationed on the west coast of Africa to suppress the slave trade.

In 1837 he was promoted post captain, and appointed in 1841 to the service in China and against the Malay pirates, a service which he repeated in 1847, when in command of HMS Maeander. The story of his two commands was told by himself in two publications, The Expedition to Borneo of HMS. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy (with extracts from the journal of James Brooke) (1846), and in A Visit to the Indian Archipelago in HMS Meander (1853). The substance of these books was afterwards incorporated into his autobiography, which was published in 1899 under the title A Sailors Life under four Sovereigns. After doing his duties in the Far East, he was active in the Crimean War. He became Admiral in 1877 and retired in 1879.

What can you find in these two volumes? Many things about this part of the world. In the he described his journey to Labuan together with an account of the piracy in the South China Sea, including an interesting description of Manilla. There are many excerpts from Brooke's diary, his thoughts about Brunei and the Sultan. I personally did not like the books for the contents, I tended to be a bit nationalist here. To me, Brooke took advantage of the situation to push his agenda of trying to control as much area as possible. Some of those described as pirates were his convenient way of getting the British Navy to come and attack those people. But it is an interesting read and worth while ordering this facsimile copy from amazon.co.uk. The real book cost around GBP3,000 if you want to get the original.


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