In March-April 1940, two years before his premature death, Van Leur wrote the review article which has been the source of inspiration for the proceedings of the NIAS conference published in this volume. In the article he launched a frontal assault on a recent history of the Dutch East Indies in the eighteenth century by the colonial historian Godee Molsbergen.1 Here, as in earlier publications, Van Leur censured colonial historiography for its western bias, and put forward an ardent plea for an Indo-centric approach to Asia’s past. At that time Van Leur was thirty-one years old and his article was to be one of his last contributions to the debate - still in its early stages - about the way in which Asia’s colonial past ought to be studied. His ground-breaking work in this field was known only to a very restricted circle of Dutch colonial historians, who on the whole placed little value on it.