First published in MBRAS 1935 (now in public domain), this book probably influenced every history book that came after. For many Malaysians, this is the version they learned in school and hence the absolute truth. (Whatever the ‘om puteh says must be correct, right?)
Regardless, I’d say it does make interesting and informative reading with many fascinating (but sometimes gossipy) details. Parts it is laugh-out-loud bizarre. For example, Winstedt has a chapter called “English Pioneers.” What? I guess, being a colonial administrator and an orientalist, he couldn’t have titled the chapter “English Pirates, Slave-traders and Drug-dealers under Britain’s great pirate Queen”, and still kept his job!
Most modern professional historians would probably regard him an amateur, although they would still refer to his work, and have been unable to proceed without it. It is indeed remarkable what he has managed to accomplish with such limited resources at hand. Many of his narratives are anecdotal but should still account for something; he was there when it happened.
Wilkinson was also a colonial administrator and a Malay scholar like Winstedt. This Part 2 of the book is more about the ancient trade routes and traditional norms of diplomacy. What I found most interesting, were his stories about Malay Kings and their “tribute” system to China and how it differed from their "bunga emas" tradition with Siam. To reveal it here, would be to give the plot away. So, let us just say that nothing much has changed!
This book is highly recommended for anyone who wants to learn who we are and the world we live in.