IIAS | IIAS Newsletter Online | No.16 | General

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In Memoriam Denys Lombard (1938-1998)

Denys Lombard, one of the world's leading Asianists, has passed away. He died on 8 January 1998, close to his sixtieth birthday. Denys Lombard was with the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) where he headed the Division des Aires Culturelles until, in 1993, he became director of the prestigious École Français d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO). He was in charge of this important post until his death.

By Roderich Ptak


Born into a family with interests in history and Oriental issues (his father was Maurice Lombard) and educated at the Sorbonne, the École Pratique des Hautes Études (later EHESS), and the École des Languages Orientale, Denys Lombard travelled extensively through many parts of Asia, living in Beijing, and, for the EFEO, in Jakarta for many years. He was fluent in several Asian and European languages and, during his term of directing the EFEO, was able to expand and refine the network of scholarly contacts with many countries and institutions. It was one of his wishes to knit together more tightly the European community of Asianists, particularly those from Southern Europe. He was especially close to our colleagues from Portugal.
His efforts at effecting co-operation at a broad international level were most successful, not just because he was highly esteemed as a scholar, but as a person, he was eloquent and yet kind, open-minded and tolerant, and an indefatigable worker. He attended an astonishingly large number of meetings and conferences, gave seminars in faraway places like Macao, and counselled students from all over the world.
Several academic fields can be associated with Denys Lombard: Southeast Asian Studies, Sinology, and the history of maritime Asia. Among his works are important monographs (which also earned him his academic degrees), various books which he edited or co-edited, and a large number of articles and reviews. His Le sultanat d'Atjeh (Paris: EFEO 1967) combines local Southeast Asian sources with Chinese and colonial reports and stands in a class of its own. The same applies to his Le carrefour javanais. Essai d'histoire globale (Paris: EHESS, 1990), comprising a total of three finely edited volumes, amounting to more than one thousand pages - no doubt the most comprehensive study on Java ever made from a longue durée view. Together with his wife, Claudine Salmont (-Lombard), he published Les Chinois de Jakarta, temples et vie collective (Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, 1980) and other works. His Marchands et hommes d'affaires asiatiques, edited with Jean Aubin, has become another standard tool for specialists on maritime Asia. Images and views of the 'Other' form a different (but related) subject in which Denys Lombard was interested, which can best be seen from his Rêver l'Asie, exotisme et littérature coloniale aux Indes, en Indochine et en Insulinde, of which he was the chief editor (Paris: EHESS 1993), and from his Asia Maritima: Images et réalité (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1994), a Franco-German project. Recently, he also published the Mémoires d'un voyage aux Indes Orientales by Augustin de Beaulieu, an early seventeenth-century account (Paris: EFEO and Maisonneuve & Larose, 1996). In addition there are numerous translations and language-related works - notably the Spraeck- ende Woord-boek of Frederick de Houtman, which he edited for the EFEO (Paris 1970). One of the most successful ventures begun by Denys Lombard was the creation of the 'Archipel' group and its journal, also called Archipel, of which there are now fifty-four issues, accompanied by an extra series, the 'Cahiers d'Archipel'. This journal is widely recognized as a leading periodical on insular Southeast Asia. It carries many of Denys Lombard's own articles and reviews (the others appeared in Bulletin de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient, Arts Asiatiques, Annales E.S.C., etc.). The latest issue of Archipel, with contributions not only by him but also by well-known scholars of the Archipel group and others, has the title Destins croise entre l'Insulinde et la France.
Denys Lombard was fascinated by the idea of comparing insular Southeast Asia and the Asian Seas to the Mediterranean. We discussed this on several occasions. The concepts of Braudel were always in his mind and can also be traced through some of his works. In March 1997, pursuing this idea, he organized an international symposium 'La Méditerranée asiatique' - once again a Franco-German initiative. With Denys Lombard, France and the international community of Asianists have lost one of their most brilliant leaders; many others, including myself, have lost a dear friend and colleague.
Prof. Roderich Ptak is attached to the Institute of East Asian Studies of the University of Munich, Germany.

  IIAS | IIAS Newsletter Online | No. 16 | General