Sumatra is a vast and understudied island with a population of 43 million people divided into a variety of ethnic groups. Apart from William Marsden’s great study of 1783, few serious historical works deal with Sumatra’s history, and even fewer attempt to describe that history as a coherent whole. Sumatra’s rich resources of land and minerals, and its enterprising people, have made it the prosperous frontier of the Archipelago. But the island’s people, most of whom were stateless highlanders until the 20th century, were politically united only by the rule of Dutch Batavia and Indonesian Jakarta. Sumatrans have a tradition of defying central authority, and the Acehnese are once again, as in Dutch times, kept in the nation only by force. This book is the fruit of 40 years’ study of Sumatran history, from the 16th century to the present. While seeking patterns of coherence in this vast island, it focuses on Aceh, which has both the most illustrious past and the most troubled present of any Sumatran region. Anthony Reid has played a leading role in research into Southeast Asian history for over four decades. His work has systematically explored the political, social and intellectual history of the region generally, but in particular studies of Aceh, South Sulawesi, Sabah (East Malaysia), and 20th century Indonesia. He is currently the Director of the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore.