Here’s something that could be a drawcard for visitors to Penang. Few Malaysians are aware that the man who gave Indonesia its name lies buried in Malaysia – in Penang to be specific.
James Richardson Logan, the man who coined the name ‘Indonesia’ in the 19th century, lies buried in the Protestant cemetery in Penang – Photos by Anil Netto
The Logan Memorial
I did not realise it myself until Indonesia’s blogger of the year 2007, Andreas Harsono, alerted me to it.
Logan was born in Berwickshire, Scotland, in 1819 and studied law in Edinburgh. Arriving in Malaya when he was just 20, he was later viewed by segments of the non-European local communities as a champion of their rights. He was editor of the Penang Gazette and the 27-volume Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, which were also called Logan’s Journals. The Logan Memorial (pic above) describes him as “an erudite and skillful lawyer, an eminent scientific ethnologist and he has founded a literature for these settlements…” He died of malaria in 1869 – a passing the Memorial describes as a “public calamity”.
The following is an excerpt from The Idea of Indonesia, Cambridge University Press 9780521876483 – The Idea of Indonesia – A History – by R. E. Elson:
The word `Indonesia’ was first manufactured in 1850 in the form `Indunesians’ by the English traveller and social observer George Samuel Windsor Earl. He was searching for an ethnographic term to describe `that branch of the Polynesian race inhabiting the Indian Archipelago’, or `the brown races of the Indian Archipelago’. But, having coined his new term, he immediately rejected it – it was `too general’ – in favour of what he deemed to be a more specific descriptor, `Malayunesians’.
A colleague, James Logan, undeterred by Earl’s decision, decided that `Indonesian’ was in fact a more telling and correct usage, to be employed primarily as a geographical rather than an ethnographic term:
I prefer the purely geographical term Indonesia, which is merely a shorter synonym for the Indian islands or the Indian Archipelago. We thus get Indonesian for Indian Archipelagian or Archipelagic, and Indonesians for Indian Archipelagians or Indian Islanders.2
Distinguishing between geographical and ethnological uses of words, Logan was the first person to employ the name `Indonesia’ to describe, however loosely, the geographical region of the archipelago. He proceeded to make relatively free but not exclusive (`the Indian Archipelago must remain’) use of the words `Indonesia’, `Indonesian’ and `Indonesians’ in this basic geographical sense here and in later writings. Indeed, he divided `Indonesia’ into four distinct geographical regions, stretching from Sumatra to Formosa.
His use of `Indonesia’ was not immediately followed. Only in 1877 did E. T. Hamy, a French anthropologist, employ the word `Indonesians’ to describe specific prehistoric and `pre-Malay’ racial groups within the archipelago. In 1880, the British anthropologist A. H. Keane followed Hamy’s usage. In the same year, a more properly geographical sense of the term, along Logan’s lines, was employed by a British linguist, N. B. Dennys, a practice adopted by W. E. Maxwell two years later.3 Adolf Bastian, the famed German ethnographer, well apprised of Logan’s earlier use of the term, employed the term in his five-volume Indonesien oder die Inseln des Malayischen Archipel, published in 1884–94.4 Given Bastian’s scholarly eminence, his adoption of the term gave it a previously unknown respectability.
But it was only in the 20th century that the term “Indonesia” gradually gained more popular acceptance including among groups opposing Dutch colonial rule.