In September 1945, after the fall of the atomic bomb—and with it, the Japanese empire—Asia was dominated by the British. Governing a vast crescent of land that stretched from India through Burma and down to Singapore, and with troops occupying the French and Dutch colonies in southern Vietnam and Indonesia, Britain’s imperial might had never seemed stronger.
Yet within a few violent years, British power in the region would crumble, and myriad independent nations would struggle into existence. Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper show how World War II never really ended in these ravaged Asian lands but instead continued in bloody civil wars, anti-colonial insurrections, and inter-communal massacres. These years became the most formative in modern Asian history, as Western imperialism vied with nascent nationalist and communist revolutionaries for political control.
Forgotten Wars, a sequel to the authors’ acclaimed Forgotten Armies, is a panoramic account of the bitter wars of the end of empire, seen not only through the eyes of the fighters, but also through the personal stories of ordinary people: the poor and bewildered caught up in India’s Hindu–Muslim massacres; the peasant farmers ravaged by warfare between British forces and revolutionaries in Malaya; the Burmese minorities devastated by separatist revolt. Throughout, we are given a stunning portrait of societies poised between the hope of independence and the fear of strife. Forgotten Wars vividly brings to life the inescapable conflicts and manifold dramas that shaped today’s Asia.