Nations out of Empires: European Nationalism and the Transformation of Asia

Nations out of Empires: European Nationalism and the Transformation of Asia

Nations out of Empires: European Nationalism and the Transformation of Asia

Nations out of Empires: European Nationalism and the Transformation of Asia

Synopsis

Harry Gelber examines centuries of colonial interaction and argues for a close link between revolution in 18th-century Europe and the development of Asian nationalism from the 19th century onwards. He reviews how the adoption of European industrial and financial practices encouraged the spread of European ideologies in general. Asia's adoption of national self-determination and decolonization changed the balance of international power.

Excerpt

The story of European colonialism in Asia is nothing if not a well-ploughed field. If I have ventured to try my hand, it is in the hope that there may still be room for a general perspective, and one which emphasizes the role of European nationalist ideas and construction in the story of both colonies and metropoles. It is not, however, a perspective which tries to cover all of the colonial efforts of Europe or the West: that seemed to me too large a canvas, too complex a story to be dealt with in a single volume except at a level of generality verging on the banal. Nor does it deal with all of Europe's colonial powers, or with all parts of Asia. Instead, this book confines itself to a tale, and a thesis, that concentrates on Britain, France and the Netherlands in Europe, and on India, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Japan in Asia. Nor could it claim to be based on fresh research in primary sources. It relies, instead, on the rich store of secondary material. Beyond that, this book flows from my general interest in nationalism, not merely as a set – perhaps kaleidoscope – of ideas but as a pattern for socio-political construction.

Like anyone working in such a field, I owe much to many people. First and foremost, to the London School of Economics, which has once again offered me the academic hospitality without which the work would not have been possible. In the School, my primary debts are to the Asia Research Centre, to the chairman of its Research Committee, Professor Lord Desai, and to its director, Professor Michael Leifer, both of whom have saved me from a number of errors. I have also had invaluable advice and help from Professors Christopher Andrew and David Fromkin, Mr Christopher Gelber and Professors Fred Halliday, Christopher Hill, Donald Horowitz, James Mayall, Tony Milner, Robert O’Neill, Sir Robert Wade-Gery, Professor Wang Gungwu and Donald Cameron Watt. At Palgrave, Ms Josie Dixon and her colleagues have been helpfulness itself. It is surely unnecessary to add that any errors of omission or commission that remain are mine alone.

HARRY G. GELBER

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