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Trained as a doctor, John Crawfurd (1783-1868) went on to have a distinguished career in colonial administration with the East India Company. He held senior posts in Java from 1811 to 1816, including that of resident at the court of Yogyakarta. A talented linguist and ethnologist, Crawfurd acquired a sound knowledge of ancient Kawi and contemporary Javanese. Upon his return to Britain in 1817, he became a fellow of the Royal Society and published this three-volume work on the Indonesian islands, principally Java, to great acclaim. Following further service abroad, he published accounts of his various missions in south-east Asia and an encyclopaedic sequel to the present work (all of which are reissued in the Cambridge Library Collection). Volume 2 examines language, literature, religion, and history, and the impact of Islam, Christianity and European colonisation.