The Divergent Evolution of Javanese Historiography

Mr Wayan Jarrah Sastrawan1

1University Of Sydney, Australia

This paper considers the question of how the evolution of historical knowledge is conditioned by norms of textuality. I argue that the way texts are produced, handled, and received within a social environment offers a set of resources and constraints for the practice of history.  I explore this hypothesis through the case study of the evolution of Javanese historiography in the second millennium CE. States on Java maintained historical records, mostly in the form of legal documents, since the 8th century, but the evolution of the island’s historiography has been far from smooth. I argue that a radical change in textual practices at the turn of the 16th century, associated with the decline of the bureaucratised agrarian state of Majapahit, caused the evolution of Javanese historical knowledge to diverge. The result of this divergence was at least two separate and conflicting bodies of Javanese historiography, which continued to develop along their own trajectories into the nineteenth century and remain unreconciled to the present day.


Wayan Jarrah Sastrawan is a doctoral student of Asian History at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on the historical writing practices of premodern Java and Bali. He is a founding member of the research group Perspectives on the Past in Southeast Asia and an editor for New Mandala.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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