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Distributed for National University of Singapore Press

Southeast Asia in Ruins

Art and Empire in the Early 19th Century

British artists and commentators in the late 18th and early 19th century encoded the twin aspirations of progress and power in images and descriptions of Southeast Asia’s ruined Hindu and Buddhist candis, pagodas, wats and monuments. To the British eye, images of the remains of past civilisations allowed, indeed stimulated, philosophical meditations on the rise and decline of entire empires. Ruins were witnesses to the fall, humbling and disturbingly prophetic, (and so revealing more about British attitudes than they do about Southeast Asia’s cultural remains). This important study of a highly appealing but relatively neglected body of work adds multiple dimensions to the history of art and image production in Britain of the period, showing how the anxieties of empire were encoded in the genre of landscape paintings and prints.

340 pages | 82 color plates | 7 1/4 x 9 1/4 | © 2016


Art: British Art, Middle Eastern, African, and Asian Art

Asian Studies: Southeast Asia and Australia

History: Asian History

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“This immaculately written book, together with the excellently chosen illustrations, integrates early British visual culture regarding Southeast Asia with an important discussion of the relationships between European imperialism and art history.”

John Crowley, Dalhousie University

Southeast Asia in Ruins is a valuable and impressive addition to scholarship on British art. Richly diverse source materials are deftly deployed in an elegant, insightful and highly readable narrative that has the very great merit of focusing attention on these beautiful but all too frequently overlooked images.”

Tony Ellwood, National Gallery of Victoria

“This is a richly-detailed academic study that is filled with original art but it’s not too dense or complex to be out of reach of the casual reader.”


"This impeccable art history scholarship is the result of long and thorough doctoral research on decoding narratives hinted in landscape paintings and prints of Southeast Asia's Hindu and Buddhist sanctuaries in ruins...Tiffin's work and methodology are exemplary in showing how the study of images may be as heuristic as the study of text."


Table of Contents

List of Figures
Introduction – Subjects of Novelty and Interest
I           Raffles’ The History of Java, its Precursors and its Peers
II          The Candi of Java and the Picturesque Ideal
III        The Barometer of Civilisation
IV        The Nature of Decline
V         The Politics of Decline
VI        Dissipating the Gloom of Ignorance
Conclusion – The Landscape of Regret
Selected Bibliography

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