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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). The three volumes of this work cover arts, sciences, medicine, agriculture, language, history, religion, politics and commerce.