Southeast Asia in World History

By Craig A. Lockard | Go to book overview

Editior’Preface

Green lands and blue waters, lowlands and highlands, peasants and kings, tradition and modernity, continuity and change, and East and West: these are a few of the many analytical constructs that scholars have used to fashion their historical narratives about Southeast Asia. They have resorted to such seemingly contradictory notions to portray and evoke the remarkable historical landscape of that region, a terrain whose richness and variety stems from its role as a crossroads where political, economic, social, religious, and cultural forces emanating from both within and without intersected. Indeed, the experiences of peoples living within the boundaries of the diverse areas of mainland and island Southeast Asia have been shaped by internal dynamics as well as by influences originating from the great civilizations of China and India and, more recently, from Europe and the United States.

Bounded by South Asia on the west, China on the north, and the Pacific Ocean on the east, Southeast Asia today includes eleven countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, East Timor (Timor Leste), and Vietnam. What binds them together but also sets them apart makes for a rich history that Craig Lockard recounts elegantly and in detail. His account begins with the “ancient roots” of the region when its peoples emerged as “among the world’s earliest farmers” and continues with their stories as they became denizens of cultures, societies, and states that were drawn into wider worlds.

This book is part of the New Oxford World History, an innovative series that offers readers an informed, lively, and up-to-date history of the world and its people that represents a significant change from the “old” world history. Only a few years ago, world history generally amounted to a history of the West—Europe and the United States—with small amounts of information from the rest of the world. Some versions of the old world history drew attention to every part of the world except Europe and the United States. Readers of that kind of world history could get the impression that somehow the rest of the world was made up of exotic people who had strange customs and spoke difficult languages. Still another kind of “old” world history presented the story of areas or peoples of the world by focusing primarily on the achievements of great civilizations. One learned of great buildings, influential

-vii-

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