Customer Reviews: In Search of Southeast Asia: A Modern History (Revised)
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VINE VOICEon March 18, 2005
If you are interested in history, or perhaps if you just had to sit through history way back when, you probably heard about "no taxation without representation", Gettysburg, Disraeli, the Magna Carta, Charlemagne, Voltaire, and Cheops' Pyramid, to take a few out of the grab bag. Whether or not you've heard of similarly central and basic events or people in Southeast Asia is another question. Most people in English-speaking countries are a bit vague if asked about Arakan (a long independent kingdom now part of Burma or Myanmar) or Cebuano (one of the most important Philippine languages), Tu Duc (the last major emperor of Vietnam who died in 1883) or Kartini (a Javanese woman whose letters are a monument to modernization and change in Indonesia). I first used the 1973 edition of this book more than 30 years ago when I had to teach an introductory course on Southeast Asia. I found it an invaluable source of information, in an excellently organized format. The authors wisely did not try to cover two thousand years or more of history for the eleven countries-Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, East Timor, Brunei, and the Philippines-making up the region. They begin with an excellent picture of the 18th century world, including fishermen and rice farmers, religion, trade, local rulers and colonial rulers (at that time, only the Spanish in part of the Philippines). This section alone is worth the price of the book as a marvelous integrated history. The next section deals with the way each major society dealt with the impinging outside world, which arrived in the shape of colonial economic and political encroachments and ultimate control. Each colonial power adopted particular measures, producing differing reactions from the inevitable nationalist movements. Meanwhile Chinese and Indian businessmen, then Japanese military occupation added new elements to the historical mix. People who want up-to-date material must look for the later edition. My edition of IN SEARCH OF SOUTHEAST ASIA does not discuss much after 1960, leaving out the Second Indochina War, the economic transformation of Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia since then, the impact of oil in Indonesia, and the Cambodian genocide. But in any case, as an introduction to Southeast Asia, as a background work for the study of any one of the countries mentioned, this book would be hard to beat. It contains some excellent maps and detailed information on a myriad subjects. Its style is serious, but not unreadable. If you read the whole thing, you will know more about Southeast Asia than 99% of Westerners. And that's a shame.
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on March 8, 2005
Wow! What a volume. As I mentioned in my review of a Cambridge History of the same region, ignorance of this region is simply not wise, and I would dare say not an option. In this day of terrorism and other geopolitical concerns, we remain ignorant of this region at our peril. This book will give the reader a good basic explanation of the ten countries (at the time this book was published) that make up this region.

This work is divided into five parts. The first part is entitled "The Eighteenth-Century World." In it, the authors describe the various forces affecting peasants, tribal peoples, village-life, etc. over the region as a whole before focusing on specific countries (many of which were colonies at the time.)

Part two, entitled "New Challenges to Old Authority" goes country/region by country/region and talks about the major changes coming to the region, much of which is brought by the European powers and the expansion of the role that they have had there for more than 200 years by that point. The section covers from 1750 to 1875.

Part three is entitled "Framework for Nations." This shortest section of the books looks at various forces, such as economic transformation, that are affecting the entire region.

Part four, "Social Change and the Emergence of Nationalism" basically covers the first few decades of the twentieth century prior to World War II. Effects of the newer, more direct, forms of colonial systems are discussed as well as the emergence of nationalism, first in the Philippines, throughout the region.

Part five contains an examination of the post-war history of the region, focusing on the themes of independence and social change.

This is a heavy work and dense at times, but that is to a point unavoidable due to the subject matter at hand. However, this is a must-have volume for anyone wishing to become familiar with the modern history as well as the peoples that make up one of the world's least discussed, but most vital regions.
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on May 15, 2012
A great book to read on this area. Not only do you get a history of the region's people and nation-states, but a history of trend, whether social, economic or political. The book ends in the mis 1980's, so a second revision is sorely needed. My advice is to read the chapters for each nation in order, as opposed to how they are presented. I didn't and I think I could have garnered more understanding of the history of each nation had I done so. This book was not a waste of time.
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on December 12, 2005
This is a wonderful introduction to the history of Southeast Asia, ranging from the early modern period of the region to the influence of colonialism on the society and culture of Southeast Asian countries. There is also good background information on the individual countries which comprise the area.
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on February 21, 2015
As expected.
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on April 20, 2014
An excellent edited textbook for upperlevel and graduate level students os Southeast Asta. The major names on the subject weigh in and provide their viewpoints .
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on February 28, 2015
The book may not add much to what is already been written on the subject, but it is a serious work and of an easy and pleasant reading. Those two characteristics makes it very much enjoyable and recommendable.
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