Empire's End: A History of the Far East from High Colonialism to Hong Kong

Overview

To the haunting notes of a lone bugle playing "The Last Post," the sole remaining Western flag is lowered. With Hong Kong's return to China on June 30, 1997, an era of empire ends, exactly five hundred years after Vasco de Gama first sailed to the Asian mainland. As recently as 1930, half of the world's population was somewhere subject to American, British, French or Dutch colonial rule; two generations later, the West's empires in the East are extinct. In the process, the Orient, once a byword for things sleepy,...
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Overview

To the haunting notes of a lone bugle playing "The Last Post," the sole remaining Western flag is lowered. With Hong Kong's return to China on June 30, 1997, an era of empire ends, exactly five hundred years after Vasco de Gama first sailed to the Asian mainland. As recently as 1930, half of the world's population was somewhere subject to American, British, French or Dutch colonial rule; two generations later, the West's empires in the East are extinct. In the process, the Orient, once a byword for things sleepy, mysterious and decadent, has become a catchphrase for all things modern and dynamic. What happened? What are the legacies left by five hundred years of colonial presence? For legacies there are - deep ones - and ignoring them is perilous for anyone who hopes to understand modern-day Asia. European or American troops are no longer stationed in the Pacific by right. Culturally and economically, though, the East and the West have never been more closely tied. No book has ever explored the relationship between the two so fully as John Keay's Empire's End, a magnificent work of history that takes the first full measure of a powerful evolutionary process that has pulled the world from the Age of Empire into the Asian Century.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
With an astute eye for psychology, a well-honed British wit, and an appreciable gift for language and storytelling, Keay has contributed an informative and engrossing account of what remains for Westerners today's most important and misunderstood geopolitical region. Drawing on extensive English-language sources, he has tackled a vast and heterogeneous subject: the colonization of Asia spanning from the first Dutch endeavors in 1595 to the handover of Hong Kong this year, and has succeeded in what surely was a labor of love. He succeeds admirably in giving the history and the region a human face through profiles of the personalities-both colonizers and native players-whose personal plans and ideologies often influenced the fate of each region more than their governments or peoples. Anecdotes about the people who lived it are key to this history, people like Thomas Raffles and Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore; Tunku Abdul Rahman in Malaysia; Hubertus van Mook and Sukarnoin Indonesia; Ramon Magsaysay and Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Phillipines; Landsdale and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam; and Cecil Clementi in China. These aggregate thoughts and observations reveal the complex nature of events more faithfully than details of Western policy objectives or of the battles and treaties involved, and are fascinating to read. Keay remarks, "in 1980... it remained possible to detect in the region's still soft political alluvium the distinctive imprint of each imperial dinosaur." One need only know what to look for, and for that, this book is an informed guide.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With an astute eye for psychology, a well-honed British wit, and an appreciable gift for language and storytelling, Keay has contributed an informative and engrossing account of what remains for Westerners today's most important and misunderstood geopolitical region. Drawing on extensive English-language sources, he has tackled a vast and heterogeneous subject: the colonization of Asia spanning from the first Dutch endeavors in 1595 to the handover of Hong Kong this year, and has succeeded in what surely was a labor of love. He succeeds admirably in giving the history and the region a human face through profiles of the personalitiesboth colonizers and native playerswhose personal plans and ideologies often influenced the fate of each region more than their governments or peoples. Anecdotes about the people who lived it are key to this history, people like Thomas Raffles and Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore; Tunku Abdul Rahman in Malaysia; Hubertus van Mook and Sukarnoin Indonesia; Ramon Magsaysay and Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Phillipines; Landsdale and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam; and Cecil Clementi in China. These aggregate thoughts and observations reveal the complex nature of events more faithfully than details of Western policy objectives or of the battles and treaties involved, and are fascinating to read. Keay remarks, "in 1980... it remained possible to detect in the region's still soft political alluvium the distinctive imprint of each imperial dinosaur." One need only know what to look for, and for that, this book is an informed guide. (May)
Library Journal
Keay (The Honorable Company, Macmillan, 1994) provides a solid overview of the British, French, Dutch, and American empires in the Far East, concentrating on the years after 1930. He examines the effects of the Pacific War on empire and on the emerging nationalistic movements. He also discusses the Vietnam War and insurgency movements and ends by speculating on the future of Hong Kong. "There seems to be a continuum in the history of the East," he explains, "to which, albeit for its own purposes, empire substantially contributed." A solid work; highly recommended.William L. Wuerch, Micronesian Area Research Ctr., Univ. of Guam
Kirkus Reviews
An absorbing, anecdotal overview of the West's protracted imperial involvement in the Pacific Basin, which will end when Great Britain quits Hong Kong at midyear 1997.

Keay (The Honorable Company, 1994) focuses on the colonial enterprises of France, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US in Greater East Asia, a vast if fragmented oceanic domain encompassing mainland China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and other outposts of empire. Providing background enough to clarify how the industrial powers came by their offshore territories, he tracks the frequently chaotic, often bloody history of erstwhile possessions from the 1930s through independence. From recalling the postOpium Wars emergence of Hong Kong as a counting house for the storied traders operating out of China's so-called treaty ports, the author segues gracefully into an interpretive account of how the UK's 1930 departure from an all-but-forgotten enclave called Weihaiwei facilitated its subsequent disengagements. Keay goes on to document how withdrawal proved less simple for the French (whose entrenched presence in Indochina had more to do with prestige than mercantilism), the Dutch (the first Europeans to settle in the region), and the nominally anti-imperialist Americans (effectively disoriented by their acquisition of the Philippines in the wake of a brief conflict with Spain). Covered as well are the convulsive effects of WW II and the postwar period's upheavals, exacerbated by fears that Marxist liberation fronts would fill any vacuums created by the untidy process of decolonization.

An estimable and literate briefing on a once-captive area that promises to play an important role in the Global Village's socioeconomic future.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684815923
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 4/8/1997
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.20 (d)

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