The Spell of Power: A History of Balinese Politics, 1650-1940

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KITLV Press, 1996 - Bali (Indonesia) - 389 pages
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The first comprehensive history of Balinese politics from the middle of the 17th century till the end of Dutch colonial rule in 1942, this study is based on extensive research in colonial archives in the Netherlands and Indonesia, a variety of Balinese historical narratives, interviews with former colonial officials as well as many Balinese, combined with data concerning temples, rituals, and oral histories gathered during twelve months of fieldwork in South Bali.
Balinese history is traced by means of a collective biography of the Mengwi dynasty, describing the rise to power, the formation and expansion of a negara, the subsequent crises, and its fall in 1891. The political system in Bali was complex and fragile, owing to the dynamic relationships between leaders and followers, temple systems and royal rituals, irrigation and taxation, and slave trade and warfare, which are brought together here into a single analytical framework.
Between 1906 and 1942 Bali became part of the Dutch colonial state and experienced bureaucratic rule and processes that resulted in a 'traditionalization' of Balinese kingship and culture. Focusing on the descendants of the Mengwi dynasty and their subjects, the author describes the local practices of colonialism, which finally resulted in hardship and poverty during the economic depression of the 1930s. The story of the Mengwi dynasty under colonial rule ended in a conflict between one faction that sought to expand its power through collaboration with the Dutch and another faction that tried to preserve its old royal authority. This conflict had an unexpected but devastating outcome.

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The rise of Mengwi 17001770
Crisis 17701823
Restoration 18231871

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About the author (1996)

Henk Schulte Nordholt is lecturer in modern Asian history and anthropology in the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research of the University of Amsterdam.