Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia

Professor Dr Anthony Milner


Professor Dr Anthony Milner was born on 10th December, 1945 in Melbourne, Australia. He is a specialist on Southeast Asia, who specializes in Malay and Malaysian history. Professor Milner graduated with a B.A. from Monash University, before taking up a PhD from Cornell University. He studied under Oliver William Wolters, a leading international specialist on pre-modern Southeast Asia, and John Legge, who is widely considered as the founder of modern Asian Studies in Australia. Professor Milner’s mentorship under these two inspirational figures led him to chart a course of his own into becoming a historian of Southeast Asia. Helped by these two inspirational figures - as well as by Professors Wang Gungwu and Clifford Geertz - Professor Milner charted his own course as a historian of Southeast Asia.
Professor Milner’s work on Malay society has attempted to highlight ideological creativity and the contest of ideas. He started writing on Malay history and society as well as the history of Islam in Southeast Asia as early as 1982, the year he published “Kerajaan: Malay Political Culture on the Eve of Colonial Rule”. This fundamental work was well-received by many academics at the time, and was selected as one of the 25 “works of major importance to historical studies” in Southeast Asian history by the Association for Asian Studies in the USA. Since 1982, Professor Milner has published a series of books on Malay and Malaysian history for Cambridge University Press, Blackwell Press and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. Professor Milner later served as the Director of the Australia Asia Perceptions Project of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. This was a pioneering project on the role of cultures in international relationships, and produced three volumes of essays for Oxford University Press. The volume, Comparing Cultures, was reprinted numerous times.
Professor-Milner-with-his-wife-Claire-and-graduate-student-Ruhan-Shahrir-in-2017.jpgProfessor Milner with his wife Claire and graduate student Ruhan Shahrir in 2017

Professor Milner at Fatehpur Sikri in 2015

Following his term at the Academy, Professor Milner was appointed as Basham Professor of Asian History at the Australian National University in 1995. Two years later, he became the Dean of Asian Studies at the same university in 1996 and held the position up until 2005. During this period, Professor Milner remained a prolific academician and writer, publishing titles not only on Malaysian history but also on the historical and cultural processes that shape the Asian region, and which also influence Australia’s opportunities and security. He is now Emeritus Professor of the Australian National University. He is also International Director and Professorial Fellow at Asialink (University of Melbourne), where he continues to work on Australia-Asia issues.

In Australia, Professor Milner currently lives on a cattle and sheep property, run by his wife, Claire, and son, John. He intervenes in the running of the farm from time to time, while his wife critiques his academic writing in the same spirit. They also enjoy discussing their children and their respective families.
 With Tan Sri Mohamed Jawhar Hassan, HRH Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah and Tan Sri Rastam Mohd Isa, 2014

Professor Dr Anthony Milner’s primary interest is in Malay and Malaysian history, and his second interest is in regional relations, including Australia’s relations with the Asian region. His work on Malay or Malaysian topics has taken place primarily at the Australian National University, Monash University, Cornell University, the University of Kent, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and and Tokyo University of Foreign Studies; in Malaysia at the University of Malaya and Universiti Kebangsaan (as Pok Rafeah Chair), as well as the prominent think-tank, ISIS Malaysia (where he held the Tun Hussein Onn Chair 2014-2015). At the University of Malaya, he currently works closely with Professor Azirah Hashim, Director of the Asia Europe Institute.
With Professor Azirah Hashim, Director of the Asia Europe Institute in 2015

Professor Milner’s research interests include Asian regionalism and the analysis of non-Western (especially Southeast Asian) approaches to international relations. In recent years, he has written the overview essay on ‘Asian regionalism’ for the annual Routledge Press volume The Far East and Australasia (New York and London); he was also co-editor of the Asialink Commission report, Our Place in the Asian Century: Southeast Asia as The Third Way. In government bodies and in such non-government institutions as Asialink and the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific, he has comments on regional relations in a range of Australian and Southeast Asian newspapers, as well as on the Australian ABC.

Professor Milner has also served on a range of Australian Government committees, including the Foreign Affairs Council and the Australia Malaysia Institute. He was made a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 1994 and a National Life Member, Australian Institute of International Affairs in 2007. In the same year, he also became a Member of the Order of Australia. In such institutions as the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific, he has sought opportunities to enhance Malaysia-Australia cooperation. On engagement and relationship building, and on openness and moral balance in foreign-policy thinking deserves more attention in the general study of international relations.
Professor Wang Gungwu at the launching of a book by Professor Milner in 2016

Professor-Milner-with-the-late-Professor-Lee-Poh-Ping,-Dr-Alice-Ba-and-and-Professor-Kuik-Cheng-Chwee-in-2015.jpgProfessor Milner with the late Professor Lee Poh Ping, Dr Alice Ba and Professor Kuik Cheng Chwee in 2015


In discussion with Minister of Higher Education Dato' Seri Idris Jusoh, 2016

Professor Milner is keen to show that old traditions of foreign relations – traditions that go back to the sultanates of pre-British times – continue to be influential and relevant till today. He hopes to show that the long-established Malay emphasis on engagement and relationship building, and on openness and moral balance in foreign-policy thinking deserves more attention in the general study of international relations.
 With Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Former Foreign Minister of Thailand and Professor Azirah Hashim at the University of Malaya, 2017

With Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in 2015

Personal Philosophy: “Keep moving forward, hurl oneself into life - explore, debate, experiment - but be alert to unintended consequences”.

Message to Young Malaysians: “Young Malaysians need to learn about leaders of the past – right back to pre-British times. Some classical Malay texts – such as the Hikayat Hang Tuah – offer insights that can be of assistance even today. Modern Malaysian leaders have displayed skill and foresight in economic and social policy, and Malaysia’s success in foreign policy, especially in building ASEAN, ought to be inspirational”. 
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