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White Rajah

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  65 Ratings  ·  7 Reviews
Sir James Brooke was an extraordinary 'eminent' Victorian, whose life was the stuff of legend.His curious career began in 1841 when he was caught up in a war in Brunei which had started because a party of local Dayaks had refused to furl their umbrellas in the presence of the Sultan. Brooke was an opportunist who, with the Sultan's backing, made war on the Dayaks tribespeo ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 2nd 2003 by Abacus (first published 2002)
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On page 74 and really torn on whether to go any further. I just came back from Kuching, and so wanted to learn more about “White Rajah” James Brooke – but this is a whole lot more Freudian than what I was looking forward. All right, I get it – Brooke was probably gay. But can we just move on and get to the pirates?

Well, apparently not. On page 13, Barley mentions “the vexed question of James sexuality, which it is premature to discuss in depth at this point” – but then he goes on to discuss real
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
- Very enjoyable biography, well-written with interesting tidbits...
- Having just returned from Sarawak, this book was great to augment the sense of history of the place, and to get a better understanding of how Sarawak came to be...
- Loved the mix of British, Dayaks, missionaries, Malays, Bruneians, etc...
- Didn't quite understand the fixation of proving whether or not Brooke was homosexual, but perhaps it was something Barley wanted to challenge amongst other Brooke biographers.
- I was more in
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book about Borneo and the man who was at the heart of it's emergence (James Brooke). Enjoyed it. Although his homosexuality was a bit overplayed.
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
I had had this book sitting on my shelf of Malaysiana for ten years, after having purchased it in the (alas) no longer existing Borneo Books bookshop in Kota Kinabalu. I'm not sure why I put off reading it for so long--given that I had always wanted to know more about James Brooke. I guess I thought it would be either too scholarly or too uncritical.

It turned out to be neither. Nigel Barley paints a brutally honest picture of this eponymous swashbuckler. He cuts through all the mythology and pos
Geoff Woodland
Mar 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Overall I enjoyed this book, but I wonder if it is because I like information about Borneo and the East, having visited Borneo in the mid 60’s and re-visited Kuching a couple of time in the last three years. I find Nigel Barley a very readable author (I’ve read other books by this author), but White Rajah took me a lot longer than normal to finish. Perhaps I’m getting old after all. :-o)
Matthew Stanfill
Jun 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
It is an overall good read. I think there are large gaps not written about and that Barley focuses far too much on the possibility that Brooke was gay. The entire epilogue is even about that...
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