The Brooke Raj was a remarkable achievement. James Brooke had acquired the status of an independent ruler.
Rajah James had established the Raj with the aid of remarkable few European officers. He relied ultimately on the loyalty of the Sarawak Malay Datus without whom he could not have ruled. For many years the relationship was uneasy, but by his death in 1868 he was the accepted ruler and his nephew Charles Johnson Brooke who have been the factor ruler in the Rajah declining years, inherited a stable political situation. Rajah Charles continued the practice of allowing the Malays leader a key rule in the Government of the state and a leading role in the annual supreme council and the triennial Council Negeri, the major Government advisory bodies.
If effective Government depended on the Malay and European elite, the maintenance of the peace of the state and the imposition of the Rajah Government upon the people depended on the warlike prowess of the Ibans, the most numerous of the Dayaks peoples. The Ibans were at ones at most troublesome subjects and his most loyal defenders. Independently minded chiefs would rise against the encroachment of the Government while those who had accepted Brooke rule would rally to its defense when the war-spear was sent amongst them and they could satisfy their lust for the battle in legalized raid upon its enemies. Plunder, heads and the excitement of war were their rewards and Rajah Charles reliance upon his Iban allies preserves these warlike proclivities despite his professed desire to eradicate them. For the truth Rajah Charles was he and Iban war leader and never failed to be stirred by the sight of the Great War PHARUS with their hundred or more be-feathered warriors massing at the beginning of a punitive expedition.
Brooke rule was intensely personal. It was undisputable autocratic. And yet it was popularly based. The Rajah and his European officers moved amongst the people they governed with freedom and ease. In Kuching certain formalities were honored and Brooke ceremony was composite of Malay and British traditions. The symbols of power were important, but the same Rajah who walked remote austere beneath the yellow umbrella on ceremony occasions was at all other time accessible to his people.
The Rajah suffered too from some of the disabilities of any autocratic regime. The aging Charles had his favorites and jealousies and suspicions marked each succession. Rajah Vyner was slow to adapt to the changing conditions of the twentieth century so that the native peoples were ill-prepared for the post World War 2 period, but that war and the modern period could hardly have been foreseen by the Rajah and his officers of the 1930’s administrators of the state that had existed largely in isolation for almost a hundred years. Loyalty to Raj was deeply ingrained, government was minimal and the personalities of Rajah and his officers were more important than policy. Of these personalities that of Rajah Charles was the most pervasive. If James was the founder of
This article illustration tries to recapture something of the flavor of the Raj. Its presentation sets against its informality. Against the formal photographs of the uniformed officer from the source place the Ranee Margaret relaxing on the Batang Lupar and Resident hose in conference with his warriors. Much about the Raj appears slightly ridiculous to modern eyes. The people of