A History of Johore, 1365-1895 by Sir Richard O. Winsted is the only comprehensive treatment of the Malay polity which fled from Melaka in 1512 following the Portuguese conquest. It traces the fortunes of the ex-Melaka dynasty as it strove to establish a base and an entrepot at the eastern end of the Straits of Melaka while trying to maintain the remnants of the state and its economy against attacks from the Portuguese, Acehnese and other Malay rivals. The new locations of the capitals, sometimes on the Johor River and other times at Riau, placed the court in what O. W. Wolters has called the true centre of the maritime Malay world, the home of the orang laut, or sea peoples, who had long been the major local constituency of the dynasty.
Winstedt follows the history of the Johor dynasty and the subsidiary lineages through their alliance with the Dutch, the crisis that accompanied the extinction of the Melaka line, the rise of the new Bendahara dynasty and the subsequent wars with the Minangkabau and the coming of the Bugis. The story concludes, not with the extinguishing of the sultanic lines in Lingga and Kesang, but with the coming of the British and the rise of the Temenggongs whose descendants currently occupy the throne in Johor Bahru.
Winstedťs book seems rather curious. It could not be written today, because the old Johor empire has such an ambivalent role in the nationalist agendas and historical reconstructions of Indonesia, Malaysia or Singapore. Old Johor once encompassed much of the southern Malay Peninsula, Singapore Island, the Riau-Lingga Archipelago and parts of eastern Sumatra. Winstedťs conclusion with the modern state of Johor, a component of British Malaya and ultimately of Malaysia, is likewise somewhat arbitrary, in that the royal houses of Pahang, Trengganu, Selangor, Riau and Siak all can claim descent from the same Malay polity. Nevertheless, the modern state of Johor still has the name, occupies some of the same space controlled by the former state, and it has survived.
A History of Johore, 1365-1895 throws into contrast the shift which has occurred in the historical consciousness of the Malays in these days of the nation-state. Today, the tradition of Johor and its links to the Riau Archipelago and the greater maritime world of the eighteenth century seems an anachronism that has fallen between the cracks created in the Malay world by the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824. On the other hand, the economic expansion taking place in Singapore and Johor has now come to include Riau in the new “Growth Triangle”. Ironically this recreates the core of the old Johor state as it may have existed in the eighteenth century
Mohamad Haziq Amaluddin (Verified Reader) –