Malaysia: The Making of a Nation

Malaysia: The Making of a Nation

Malaysia: The Making of a Nation

Malaysia: The Making of a Nation

Synopsis

Focusing on Malaysia's four prime ministers as nation-builders, this study observes that each one of them was transformed from being the head of the Malay party to that of the leader of a multi-ethnic nation - reinventing themselves as an inclusive Malaysian nationalist.

Excerpt

This volume is the first of a series of histories on nation-building in Southeast Asia. The idea of having such a series had its beginnings in Bangkok at the 14th Conference of the International Association of the Historians of Asia (IAHA) in 1996, where I noted that nation-building in Southeast Asia began fifty years ago and suggested that it was time for historians to write about that phenomenon. Most books on the region's new nations have been written by journalists and social scientists. I wondered whether historians would tell the story differently. Decades of anti-colonial nationalism came to a climax with the Japanese invasion of 1941—45. New states like those of the Philippines, Indonesia and Burma were born immediately after the war, followed soon by those of Malaysia and Singapore. The independence of a unified Vietnam was delayed by a bitter war and this held back the liberation of the two other Indochina states, Cambodia and Laos, but the independence of all three was only a matter of time.

Many of the protagonists of the early phases of nation-building have described their roles in this new process. Political commentators and journalists provided up-to-date accounts and analyses. But historians of the region have been concerned not to write prematurely about this subject. Many were, like me, fascinated by the first generation of nationalist leaders, men like Sukarno, Tengku Abdul Rahman and Ho Chi Minh, followed by Lee Kuan Yew, Soeharto, Ferdinand Marcos and Ne Win, but hesitant to take on full-length studies about them. These men had offered their different peoples sharply distinct visions of their countries' future. Would historians . . .

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