Southeast Asia and The Cold War, 1945-1991: An international History

Project Number
RS 8/12 ACG

Project Duration
January 2013 - January 2015


Although the post-World War II period is, as the editor of The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia described, “copiously covered in written and printed documents”, most do not provide or sufficiently provide Southeast Asian perspectives of the cold war in the region. Take for instance the early study of the Cold War in Asia by Akira Iriye, which aimed to redress the American-centric and European-centric history of the cold war. Although outstanding in many respects, the book, despite its title, focuses on East Asia. Another notable book on the origins of the cold war in Asia, edited by Iriye and Yonosuke Nagai, contains three chapters on Southeast Asia, but principally from the perspectives of Japan, the United States, and the Soviet Union. As Lee Kuan Yew emphasized, “we have to distinguish between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia”. Lee’s reminder is timely because the paths to nationhood and the geopolitics of the two regions differed and consequently their responses to the cold war, while overlapping at times, likewise differed. The literature on the cold war in East Asia is more extensive than that on Southeast Asia. This research is an attempt to fill the gap. There will also be a number of journal articles/book chapters, conference presentations and a draft manuscript which will eventually be turned into a book (which will be the culmination of this research).The final products will be useful for scholars and university/college students studying Southeast Asian history and politics.

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