Now an energy-rich sultanate, for centuries an important trading port in the South China Sea, Brunei has taken a different direction than its Persian Gulf peers. Immigration is restricted, and Brunei's hydrocarbon wealth is invested conservatively, mostly outside the country.
With some 393,000 inhabitants and today comprising 5,765 square kilometres in area (about the size of the American state of Delaware), Brunei first appears in the historical record at the end of the 10th century. After the Spanish attach 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 the colonial power began to establish the bases of a modern state.
Governed by an absolute monarchy, Bruneians today nonetheless 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.