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Month: April 2022

A Short History of Asia

A short history of Asia by Colin Mason, Palgrave Macmillan, 350pp. (3rd edition 2014)
The ‘short history’ covers the countries of the Far East, including what are now India, China, Indonesia, etc. Part I covers pre-history up to the pre-colonial era. Part II covers the impact of imperialism on these countries. Part III covers the post-WWII period, the end of imperialism and the resulting political turmoil.
Overall this is a most interesting read. This is not just a history of ‘great leaders’ as Mason points out the dismal conditions endured by the mass of the people – taxed to the max, subject to forced labour, famine and war, at all periods of this history. meanwhile the rulers often lived in great luxury.
In Part III there are reminders of past horrors – the French defeat followed by the Vietnam War, Pol Pot’s murderous regime, and the Vietnamese Boat People. Mason’s accounts of various countries in Part III are unflattering and often very revealing, with a litany of bad and oppressive governments that do little to relieve the miserable lives of the masses. Even Japan, generally regarded as a developed, democratic and progressive country, does not escape unscathed, as Mason points to corruption involving construction companies, officialdom and government.
The book concludes with some brief speculation on the future.