Cover: Forgotten Wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia, from Harvard University PressCover: Forgotten Wars in PAPERBACK

Forgotten Wars

Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia

Add to Cart

Product Details


$24.50 • £19.95 • €22.00

ISBN 9780674057074

Publication Date: 10/30/2010

Academic Trade

704 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

16 halftones

Belknap Press

United States and its dependencies only

[A] compelling book… An extraordinary cast of characters populate Forgotten Wars… The authors write that ‘the end of empire is not a pretty thing if examined too closely,’ but when examined so ably it is certainly fascinating.—Philip Delves Broughton, The Wall Street Journal

Authoritative.—Pankaj Mishra, The New Yorker

Two years after their brilliant and vivid Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941–1945, the Cambridge historians Bayly and Harper produce a sequel that examines Britain’s conflicts in Southeast Asia in the four years after the Second World War. While adroitly analyzing Britain’s hard-fought battle against insurrectionary forces in Malaya, the authors explore lesser-known episodes: Bengalese and Burmese skirmishes seldom highlighted in accounts of the Raj’s end, and the British interregnums between the ends of the Japanese occupations of Indonesia and Vietnam and the restorations of the respective former colonial administrations.The Atlantic

The authors are particularly good in their analysis of the problems of state building, on the one hand, and nation building, on the other.Foreign Affairs

Historians Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper chronicle the ensuing struggles for Britain’s Southeast Asian colonies in Forgotten Wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia, the sequel to their much-praised history of Britain’s Asian empire during World War II, Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941–1945. Primarily a diplomatic and political history rather than a military history, the new book focuses on the causes of armed conflict. After Japan’s capitulation, Messrs. Bayly and Harper contend, Southeast Asia remained in a state of war for the same reasons it had entered into such a state: poverty, imperialism, and ethnic, religious, and ideological conflict. The authors have mined a very large number of sources. Most of their new historical unearthing can be found in the intricacies of Southeast Asian politics, which they describe in great detail and with careful nuance. Those deeply interested in the politics of Burma or Malaysia or other Southeast Asian countries will find much to delight them here.—Mark Moyar, The New York Sun

This book is neither an old-fashioned ‘top down’ history of imperial politics in the region, nor a regional ‘bottom up’ account of nationalist resistance to European rule. Rather, it shows how British illusions about the nature of Britain’s power in Southeast Asia collied with Asian national movements. This book addresses an important phase of that tragic history, for which, as the authors show, Britain bore considerable responsibility.—A. Martin Wainwright, American Historical Review

Forgotten Wars movingly brings out the travails of ordinary people who got caught up within a vicious cycle of political turmoil, economic deprivation, and violence. This is a ‘must read’ for those interested in histories of British imperialism and decolonization in Asia and those who would like an introduction to the comparative regional histories of nation-states in Southeast Asia after 1945.—Haimanti Roy, Journal of British Studies

Combining breathtaking, evocative narrative with razor-sharp historical analysis, Bayly and Harper provide a dramatic account of independent Asia’s baptism of fire in the turbulent aftermath of the Second World War. They capture in vivid detail the euphoria and trauma that swept the crescent stretching from Calcutta to Singapore as Britain’s Asian empire unraveled. This brilliant book is indispensable reading for anyone interested in the history of Britain, Asia and empire.—Sugata Bose, author of A Hundred Horizons: the Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire

Like their earlier collaborative volume, Forgotten Armies, Bayly and Harper’s new book presents a fascinating story of Britain’s Asian empire in transition. Europeans, Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Burmese, Malays, Indonesians, and many others interacted as they sought to define anew the nature of empire, territory, and citizenship. There is no better way to understand the region’s survival and emergence as a center of economic development and prosperity than to revisit the immediate postwar years under the expert guidance provided by Bayly and Harper.—Akira Iriye, Professor of History Emeritus, Harvard University

Forgotten Wars is an insightful and original look at the fate of Britain’s Asian Empire in the wake of World War II. Engaging and provocative, the masterful discussion of the Malayan Emergency will be of interest to all concerned with the dilemmas presented by insurgencies in our contemporary world.—Ronald Spector, author of In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Struggle for a Postwar Asia

Recent News

From Our Blog

Jacket: What Stars Are Made Of: The Life of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, by Donovan Moore, from Harvard University Press

The Most Famous Astronomer You’ve Never Heard Of

Despite her pioneering contributions to science, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin has not always been recognized as one of the most influential scientists of the twentieth century. In What Stars Are Made Of, Donovan Moore sets out to change this, with the first full biography of this trailblazing scientist. To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are pleased to highlight five

‘manifold glories of classical Greek and Latin’

The digital Loeb Classical Library ( extends the founding mission of James Loeb with an interconnected, fully searchable, perpetually growing virtual library of all that is important in Greek and Latin literature.