The Blood of the People: Revolution and the End of Traditional Rule in Northern Sumatra

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By Anthony Reid

In northern Sumatra, as in Malaya, colonial rule embraced an extravagant array of sultans, rajas, datuks and uleebalangs. In Malaya the traditional Malay elite served as a barrier to revolutionary change and survived the transition to independence, but in Sumatra a wave of violence and killing wiped out the traditional elite in 1945‒46. Anthony Reid's The Blood of the People, now available in a new edition, explores the circumstances of Sumatra's sharp break with the past during what has been labelled its "social revolution".

The events in northern Sumatra were among the most dramatic episodes of Indonesia's national revolution, and brought about more profound changes even than in Java, from where the revolution is normally viewed. Some ethnic groups saw the revolution as a popular, peasant-supported movement that liberated them from foreign rule. Others, though, felt victimised by a radical, levelling agenda imposed by outsiders. Java, with a relatively homogeneous population, passed through the revolution without significant social change. The ethnic complexity of Sumatra, in contrast, meant that the revolution demanded an altogether new "Indonesian" identity to override the competing ethnic categories of the past.

"...a substantial and well-documented contribution to our understanding of the social and political processes in Indonesia in the first year following the Japanese capitulation. The book gives a vivid description of what happened just before, during, and after the Japanese occupation of Aceh and East Sumatra and of the elimination of the traditional ruling elites in this region." - C. Van Dijk


Anthony Reid is Emeritus Professor of Southeast Asian History at the Australian National University and a former Director of the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore. His other works include An Indonesian Frontier: Acehnese and Other Histories of SumatraNegotiating Asymmetry: China's Place in AsiaTo Nation by Revolution: Indonesia in the 20th Century, and Verandah of Violence: The Background to the Aceh Problem.


Second Edition
Publication Year: 2014
344 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-637-5, Paperback

NUS Press