In the fascinating debate between Jan Breman and Vincent Houben following the former's publication Koelies, Planters en Koloniale Politiek, both authors seem to agree on at least one point: the great value of John R.W. Smai's approach to the writing of Asian history. The historian's perspective should be from within Asia. Although Smail's ideas became widely accepted among scholars, I would like to stress that his thoughts were hardly ever put into actual practice, especially with regard to plantation development. But let me elaborate on that a little further.