Photo by Najib Ariffin

In books lies the soul of the whole past time

The articulate audible voice of the past

When the body and material substance of it has altogether vanished like a dream

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

Welcome to the website of author and historian Ian Burnet

Ian has spent thirty years, living, working and travelling in Indonesia and is fascinated by the diverse history and culture of the archipelago. This is reflected in his books Spice Islands, followed by East Indies, then Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia and now his latest book Where Australia Collides with Asia.

 

The Spice Islands book launch at Select Books, Singapore

The Spice Islands book launch at Select Books, Singapore

SPICE ISLANDS published in 2011 by Rosenberg Publishing and now available in a new paperback edition for $29.95

Click on the Image to see the synopsis and reviews on the Book Page

Click on the Image to see the synopsis and reviews on the Book Page

The words, Spice Islands, never fail to conjure images of languid tropical islands, exotic fruits, aromatic spices and romantic tales of intrepid seafarers and traders. This book not only reinforces these images, but goes some way to explain the importance and context of the spice trade and its historical significance ...This is a wonderful book; a triumph of passion and scholarship. It is a short read, but it is packed with fine detail, exquisite maps, fascinating illustrations and a comprehensive bibliography.
— Brian Geach, Townsville Bulletin
The Indonesian Trilogy book talk at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2016 Photo by Wirasathya Damarja

The Indonesian Trilogy book talk at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2016

Photo by Wirasathya Damarja

EAST INDIES published in 2013 by Rosenberg Publishing and now available in a new paperback edition for $29.95.

 

Click on Image to see synopsis and reviews on the Book page

Click on Image to see synopsis and reviews on the Book page

Meticulously researched and sumptuously illustrated with old maps and paintings, Ian Burnet’s second book, East Indies, tells the fascinating story of the rise of the trading empires of the Portuguese, Dutch and English which led to the colonisation of much of the Asia by European powers. From the early 16th Century traders, adventurers, priests and pirates were lured by the promise of the great riches to be had in commodities such as spices, sandalwood, silks, gold and Christian converts.
Burnet describes the founding of the great trading companies- the Portuguese Casa da India, the Dutch East Company and The English East India Company - which competed over centuries, often violently, for a monopoly over trade. He has uncovered stirring eyewitness accounts which enrich the narrative, and at times enters the story himself to describe to the reader what we may encounter of this rich history today in such exotic places as Goa, Malacca, Batavia, Penang and Singapore. I found it a ripping historical yarn!
— Toni Pollard, Lecturer in Indonesian (retired) University of Western Sydney
Archipelago in the Ganesha Bookshop in Sanur, Bali

Archipelago in the Ganesha Bookshop in Sanur, Bali

 
 Click on the image to see the synopsis and reviews on the Book page

 Click on the image to see the synopsis and reviews on the Book page

This beautifully illustrated and informative book takes the reader on a journey both through the landscape of Indonesia and back through Indonesia’s past. It weaves a spellbinding experience that will take many of us through memories of past trips we have taken and will entice us to explore parts of Indonesia where we have not yet ventured.
... This is a book that will delight, and inform both newcomers to Indonesia and old hands alike.

— Dr. Ron Witton, The Australia-Indonesia Institute
 

Where Australia Collides with Asia

The Epic Voyages of Joseph Banks, Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and the Origin of On the Origin of Species

Rosenberg Cover Image 2.jpg

 

This book follows the epic voyages of natural history of Continent Australia, Joseph Banks, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace.

The voyage of ContinentAustralia after it breaks away from Antarctica 50 million years ago with its raft of Gondwanaland flora and fauna and begins its journey north towards the equator.

The voyage of Joseph Banks on the Endeavour  who with Daniel Solander became the first trained naturalists to describe the unique flora and fauna of Continent Australia that had evolved during its 30 million years of isolation.

The voyage of Charles Darwin on the Beagle, who after his observations in South America and the Galapagos Islands, sat on the banks of the Coxs River in New South Wales and tried to rationalize his belief in the idea of biblical creation and understand the origin of species.

The voyage of Alfred Russel Wallace, who realised that the Lombok Strait in Indonesia, represents the biogeographical boundary between the fauna of Asia and those of Australasia. On the Asian side are elephants, tigers, primates and specific birds. On the Australasian side are marsupials such as the possum-like cuscus and the Aru wallaby, as well as birds specific to Australia such as white cockatoos, brush turkeys and the spectacular Birds of Paradise.

It was tectonic movement that brought these disparate worlds together and it was Alfred Russel Wallace's 'Letter from Ternate' that forced Charles Darwin to finally publish his landmark work On the Origin of Species.   

 

Published by Rosenberg Publishing in August 2017

What Burnet achieves in his wonderfully illustrated and narrated book is to relate the important role the Indonesian archipelago has played in the intellectual history of the West. In their separate voyages Banks, Darwin and Wallace discovered the astounding diversity of the southern hemisphere’s natural world, and it was through their observations that the enlightenment truly came of age. Western thought found it could not reconcile the static divine word of the Bible with the diverse and ever-evolving scientific reality of the natural world.
... Ian Burnet’s very perceptive use of quotes from their public writings and private diaries allow us to see through their eyes the world they found and understand the intellectual problems it raised for them.
... Like the geology of the earth we live on, and like British society that founded modern Australia this wonderfully enlightening and delightful book is many layered
— The Indonesia Institute, Dr. Ron Witton
I would like to thank Ian Burnet for writing Where Australia Collides with Asia. In his book he explains the significance of the work of these great scientists and states clearly the key place that our Asian neighbourhood has played in their ideas. It brings to life not just Darwin and Wallace but others such as Joseph Banks, Captain James Cook, Captain Robert FitzRoy of the Beagle and many others. Written in an easy to read style, with many illustrations, we are introduced to these individuals as real people and the personalities behind their famous names ...
The decades Ian has spent living and travelling in Indonesia and his training as a geologist, have contributed many wonderful layers to this book. The fact that the first of the voyages he writes about is the voyage of the tectonic plates - the voyage of continent Australia - is a wonderful way to start his narrative as it ideally provides background to what is to come.
I commend this book - you will be drawn into another world - a world that has a deep effect on the way we see ourselves and life around us today.
— Asia Bookroom, Sally Burdon
These voyagers are the three brilliant English naturalists who take the empirical natural sciences from their infancy to an epiphany in a bit less than a century. The first is the wealthy young Banks who self funds himself onto James Cook’s circumnavigation, England’s first great voyage of deliberate scientific discovery. En route, Banks and his entourage are the first to scientifically record Australia’s utterly unique flora.
Darwin is even younger when good luck puts him on HMS Beagle for its five-year charting voyage. This exposes him to South American fossils, Galapagos Islands finches and New South Wales platypuses. Back home, Darwin incubates the idea of natural selection, but nervous about dethroning the stern Victorian Lord God of Creation, makes no anouncement.
Wallace is a self-educated working man who sells rare beetles, bird and animal skins for a living. He journeys across the East Indies travelling on mail boats, sailing ships, early steamers, schooners, native prahus and dugout canoes. In a malarial fever-dream he hits upon the idea of natural selection, synthesising all that he has observed in his many years of tropical travels, his letter from Ternate forces Darwin to finally get his masterpiece ‘On the Origin of Species’ into print.

Ian Burnet reminds us that Alfred Russel Wallace is not only the independent co-discoverer of evolution but also a founder of the science of bio-geography as in the discovery of the Wallace Line which separates the species of Asia from Australasia. He has applied his customary skills, in taking the vast bibliographies that document the lives and voyages of the three English naturalists and turning them into an easy and engaging read.

— Jeffrey Mellefont, Research Associate, Australian National Maritime Museum
Some historical narratives can be difficult to follow when they are punctuated by countless footnotes and bibliographical references, or broken by a frequent need to delve into appendices. Ian Burnet frees his work from these impediments. By seamlessly embedding his sources he has produced an almost conversation style. The result is an erudite narrative flow, free of distractions. ...
The selection of photographs, maps and illustrations in this publication not only add graphical power to the work but also display Ian Burnet’s meticulous patient gathering of archival material.

— Maximos Russell Darnley, Writing in a Borderless World
Ian Burnet has gathered in this book the stories of captains, explorers, naturalists and scientists who all had a profound influence on how we came to understand the world. It is an easy read - and each chapter left me wanting more. It begins with the story of Captain Cook and (the rather vain) Joseph Banks on their epic voyage begun in 1768. Banks returned to London with a treasure chest of botanical specimens and drawings. It was a time when those interested in the natural sciences were desperate to see new creatures: birds, beetles, plants etc from remote corners of the world. It was if the world was waiting to be catalogued. Burnet tells the story partly through the diaries of these men and it is an engrossing read. The story of Charles Darwin and his growing understanding of how creatures evolved and diversified is enthralling. Darwin started out as an unlikely hero. Then came Alfred Russel Wallace and the story of his eureka moment is something of legend. This is a most enjoyable book with lots of illustrations.

— Anne M. Chappel, author of Zanzibar Uhuru, posted on Amazon

 

SPICE EXPLORATION Sailing Adventure -- September 2017

Click on the Image to go the Spice Exploration Sailing Adventure Page

Click on the Image to go the Spice Exploration Sailing Adventure Page

The blog about the Spice Island voyage by Ian Burnet brings me right back to the extraordinary voyage we all enjoyed to the Banda Islands and all the other islands we visited and are so well described here. This sail was memorable for many diverse reasons: a lovely schooner, great crew, a very knowledgeable guide, good food, and exciting daily visits to small islands where we met the local residents and their children. We visited schools, 16th century forts, local pasars, sultans’ palaces, old cemeteries, nutmeg groves, plantation houses and so much more. Back on the boat we were pampered by the crew and had many great discussions with our travel mates and lots of laughs. Would I do it again? YES, a wholehearted yes!.
— Sia Arnason