History in Uniform: Military Ideology and the Construction of Indonesia's Past

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By Katharine E. McGregor

Under the New Order regime (1967-98), the Indonesian military sought to monopolise the production of official history and control its contents. The goal was to validate the political role of the armed forces, condemn communism and promote military values.

In this detailed examination of the Indonesian military's image-making efforts, Katharine E. McGregor explores the formulation of nationalist history under Suharto, and shows how this effort affected the Indonesian people. The study highlights the role of the Armed Forces History Centre and its chief historian, Nugroho Notosusanto, in promoting controversial images of the military as a self-sacrificing people's force guarding the spirit of independence and protecting the official national philosophy, the Pancasila. The extraordinary attention paid to image-making calls into question views of the military as an all-powerful institution.

Based on interviews, museum records, guidebooks, military manuals, films, textbooks, historical re-enactments and commemorative volumes, History in Uniform offers fresh insights into the significance of history to Indonesia's politicised military and to this relatively new nation.


"McGregor discusses the military's manipulative historiography in an authoritative, clear and compelling manner. In addition, she has nicely woven into the text a biographical account of the chief historian of the armed forces, Nugroho Notosusanto...McGregor's excellent book should, therefore, encourage other scholars to visit the sites she explored a decade ago, and examine the changes that have occurred since then." - Marcus Mietzner

"This work confirms Katharine McGregor's status as the leading thinker and writer on the political use of history for nation-building in Indonesia...For anyone interested in the politics and history of the New Order, this book is a must read." - Bilveer Singh


Katharine E. MCGREGOR is a lecturer in Southeast Asian History at the University of Melbourne.


Asian Studies Association of Australia: Southeast Asian Publications Series
Publication Year: 2007
352 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-360-2, Paperback

NUS Press