In the introduction to Soul Catcher: Java’s Fiery Prince Mangkunegara I, 1726–95, MC Ricklefs notes that fifty years ago the prospect of writing such a biography of a pre-20th-century Javanese figure would have been unthinkable. That such a project is now possible is surely in no small part down to the remarkable work that Ricklefs himself has done in the intervening half-century, opening up a wealth of archival sources as one of the foremost international scholars of Javanese history.

That use of first-person plurals in the title of Early Indians: The Story Of Our Ancestors And Where We Came From should not put non-Indians off. Tony Joseph has, based on and catalyzed by the most recent genetic research, written a clear, readable and, for those unfamiliar with the subject, fascinating history of Indians as a people. It will also serve both as a primer to the way the ability to read the human genome is revolutionizing archaeology as well as a salutary alternative to the eurocentric perspective of many if not most treatments of early human history.

“This book,” starts the introduction, “was written by a man who did not exist. Despite this obvious handicap, Alfred Raquez was extraordinarily prolific.” Raquez was in fact a man on the lam: his real name Joseph Gervais, a lawyer from Lille, who got into a spot of bother—fraud, it seems—and decamped to the Orient, as it was then called, to avoid arrest and prosecution.