Description of Brunei in 1700


I was looking up something on The Brunei Museum Journal (1978) when I came across this map showing the Island of Borneo drawn way back in 1700s more than 300 years ago. The island is this unfamiliar shape but has some rudimentary look of how the actual Borneo Island is shaped. The cartographer who did this probably has more data on the southern part of the island as that is more developed and less knowledge on the top half of the island. I had a hard time searching where Brunei was located. I found it and circled it red.

The actual book was written by Rev Dr Francis Valentyn who was with the Dutch Reformed Church and was a missionary to the Indies in the late 1600s and early 1700s. He collected a lot of material and published in eight volumes entitled Oud en Niew Oust Indien (The Old and New East Indies) sometimes between 1724 and 1726. He also wrote a bit about Brunei including this short passage about us Bruneians in the past:

"... Further north or rather NNW, resides the King of Borneo in a village of the same name. The village is also situated on a very large river with a collosal bay, protected by the east and west by a reef with three small islands just in front of it. There are another three islands 12 1/2 miles ouside the reef, Poelo Tiga and another one named Monpaciam as well as a small unnamed island. Near these island is another reef extending itself in northeasterly-northwesterly directions ..."

"... Some people consider him the head king of the island and his village the capital city. The village is situated in a large swamp, which is innundated most of the time, so that it is necessary to use boats to reach the houses, about 2,000 - 3,000 in number, which are made of wood. The people are armed with bow and arrows. Whoever gets hit by their arrows is usually a dead man. They are strong, well built men, disloyal and untrustworthy in character, as our people have had to experience ..."

Poelo Tiga is actually Labuan. I did not know that it was Pulau Tiga in the past. There is some more description about Brunei but it was a tad too long. Maybe another time.

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