Today home to some 393,000 inhabitants and comprising 5,765 square kilometers in area, Brunei first appears in the historical record at the end of the 10th century. After the Spanish attack of 1578, Brunei struggled to regain and expand its control on coastal West Borneo and to remain within the trading networks of the South China Sea. It later fell under British sway, and a residency was established in 1906, but it took the discovery of oil in Seria in 1929 before colonial power began to establish the bases of a modern state.
Governed by an absolute monarchy, Bruneians today nevertheless enjoy a high level of social protection and rule of law. Ranking second (after Singapore) in Southeast Asia in terms of standards of living, the sultanate is implementing an Islamic penal code for the first time of its history. Focusing on Brunei's political economy, history and geography, this book aims to understand the forces behind Brunei's to-and-fro of tradition and modernisation.