Archipelago: The Islands of Indonesia:
From the Nineteenth-Century Discoveries of Alfred Russel Wallace to the Fate of Forests and Reefs in the Twenty-First Century

Gavan Daws + Marty Fujita

University of California Press 1999
A book review by Danny Yee © 2000 http://dannyreviews.com/
Unlike Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace had to work for a living. Archipelago sketches his background and a little of the context within which Victorian naturalists and collectors worked, but its primary focus is on Wallace's travels, on his trip to the Amazon basin and above all the twelve years he spent travelling around the Indonesian archipelago. During that time Wallace struggled with illness and other dangers, but collected an immense number of animals and plants, exotic (orangutans and birds of paradise) and mundane. And his observations of diversity and geographical led him to innovative ideas about evolution and the origins of species, ideas which make him one of the founders of modern biogeography. Wallace's subsequent life is skimmed over quickly, then a final chapter looks at how things have changed since his time, at what it is like to work as a naturalist or anthropologist in modern Indonesia and at some of the conservation and environmental issues the country faces.

Most of Archipelago is taken up by colour photographs, mostly of flora and fauna and landscapes that Wallace might have seen, but also of the differing aspects of modern Indonesia. Though it includes mini-essays on topics such as the Wallace Line, marine biodiversity, and the modern debate over Darwin and Wallace's precedence with the theory of natural selection, it offers little concrete science. If it is shallow in itself, however, Archipelago makes an excellent accompaniment to a book like Quammen's Song of the Dodo — or, I imagine, to Wallace's The Malay Archipelago, which I am now inspired to read.

April 2000

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Related reviews:
- books about Indonesia + Indonesian history
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- books published by University of California Press
%T Archipelago: The Islands of Indonesia
%S From the Nineteenth-Century Discoveries of Alfred Russel Wallace to the Fate of Forests and Reefs in the Twenty-First Century
%A Daws, Gavan
%A Fujita, Marty
%I University of California Press
%D 1999
%O hardcover, colour photographs, bibliography, index
%G ISBN 0520215761
%P xii,254pp