The Crisis of the Nineteenth Century
The first sixty years of the nineteenth century form the darkest portion of Cambodia's recorded history before the Armageddon of the 1970s. Invaded and occupied repeatedly by Thai and Vietnamese forces, the kingdom also endured dynastic crises and demographic dislocations. For a time in the 1840s, it ceased to exist as a recognizable state. Just as Jayavarman VII's ideology can be compared in some ways to the ideology of Democratic Kampuchea, the first half of the nineteenth century bears some resemblance to the 1970s in terms of foreign intervention, chaos, and the sufferings of the Cambodian people.
Fortunately for historians, there is a wide range of sources to consult in Thai, Cambodian, and Vietnamese. The record that the sources reveal, however, is incomplete. For example, the ruler of Cambodia for much of this period, King Chan, is rarely quoted in surviving sources, and none of his own writings has survived; a crucial actor has no lines. Similarly, Thai-language sources often thin out just when we might wish to have more information about the politics of Thai foreign policy in the period.
The period opens and closes with Thai-sponsored coronations. Between these two events and particularly after 1810, invasions from Vietnam and Siam alternated with internal rebellions and court-sponsored resistance to invaders while the court, especially under Chan, pursued a dangerous policy apparently aimed at preserving independence (or merely staying alive) by playing the Thai and the Vietnamese off against each other. Although the political history of the period is reasonably clear, the politics leading up to the events, and people's motivations, are often difficult to discern. The pattern that emerges is one in which Cambodia drifted first away from Thai control, then into the hands of the Vietnamese, and finally back to Thai protection. By the early 1840s, much
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Publication information: Book title: A History of Cambodia. Edition: 3rd. Contributors: David Chandler - Author. Publisher: Westview Press. Place of publication: Boulder, CO. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 117.