Frontiers of Fear


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Tigers and People in the Malay World, 1600-1950

Peter Boomgaard

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For centuries, reports of man-eating tigers in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore have circulated, shrouded in myth and anecdote. This fascinating book documents the “big cat”–human relationship in this area during its 350-year colonial period, re-creating a world in which people feared tigers but often came into contact with them, because these fierce predators prefer habitats created by human interference.

Peter Boomgaard shows how people and tigers adapted to each other’s behavior, each transmitting this learning from one generation to the next. He discusses the origins of stories and rituals about tigers and explains how cultural biases of Europeans and class differences among indigenous populations affected attitudes toward the tigers. He provides figures on their populations in different eras and analyzes the factors contributing to their present status as an endangered species. Interweaving stories about Malay kings, colonial rulers, tiger charmers, and bounty hunters with facts about tigers and their way of life, the book is an engrossing combination of environmental and micro history.

Peter Boomgaard is senior researcher at the Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology, Leiden, the Netherlands, and professor of economic and environmental history of Southeast Asia at the University of Amsterdam.

"An important book about a fascinating topic. Nothing like it exists."—Paul Greenough, University of Iowa  

“A fascinating and uniquely valuable account of the historical relationships and entangled destinies between tigers and people in the Malay region, including local beliefs and rituals and the mutual antagonism between the two. The past here offers basic new insights and perspectives on tigers today.”—George B. Schaller, Wildlife Conservation Society

“Boomgaard . . . has produced a well-researched book on a specialized topic. . . . It is written to be palatable to general readers. Recommended to graduate students and faculty in universities that have programs in wildlife conservation as well as anthropology and cultural history.”—Choice

"Conservation biologists, ecologists, and students will benefit from the historical perspective that will enlighten their research efforts, and anyone interested in tigers or tiger conservation will find this book interesting."—Wildlife Activist

“Each chapter, reflecting different perspectives on animal and human interactions, concludes with a unique synthesis of material, leading up to the fine-tuned elegance of the final chapter, entitled ‘Living Apart Together,’ which, in an exciting manner, draws the different historical, anthropological, and zoological threads into a unified whole. The sheer Kuhnian pleasure in reading this text I not to be missed.”—Robert Paddle, Isis

“Boomgaard’s book is a valuable contribution to the literature about tigers in the Malay world, presenting source materials that have rarely been available to scholars outside the Netherlands.”—Robert Wessing, Journal of Asian Studies

“This extraordinarily rich and original work is largely a detailed historical analysis of tiger-people interactions in Java, Sumatra, Malaya, and Bali.”—Journal of Interdisciplinary History
ISBN: 9780300206388
Publication Date: November 19, 2013
320 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
32 b/w illus. + 10 maps
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