Sir James Brooke was an extraordinary "eminent" Victorian, whose life is the stuff of legend. His curious career began in 1841 when he was caught up in a war in Brunei which had started because a party of local Dayaks had refused to furl their umbrellas in the presence of the Sultan. Brooke was an opportunist who, with the Sultan's backing, made war on the Dayaks tribespeople and eventually found himself ruling over Sarawak - a kingdom the size of England - as a result. How he achieved it is a romantic, sometimes horrifying story. Brooke is someone that George Macdonald Fraser would scarcely dare to invent. Errol Flynn wanted to play him in a movie, 70 years after his death, and his dynasty is remembered throughout South-East Asia. This historical biography recalls the best and the worst of the British Imperial character.
Nigel Barley is the author of six books, including THE INNOCENT ANTHROPOLOGIST and DANCING ON THE GRAVE. He is the curator of London's Museum of Mankind.