To write a history of Malaysia is a challenge. The country still bears the marks of a state that was constructed from disparate British dependencies loosely bound together by colonial institutions, and regional fragmentation has been aggravated by ethnic differences, particularly tension between bumiputras (mainly Malays) and the rest (largely Chinese). Moreover, its historiography was long dominated by non-Malaysians whose alleged colonial mentality caused resentment. Some accounts stopped short of the British period, which was taken to mark the end of history and the start of "good government"; other writers focused on aspects of this multiracial society. Neither approach resulted in coherence.
In 1982, Barbara and Leonard Andaya published a comprehensive history. Fluently composed and firmly structured, it drew upon non-English as well as English-language sources, was sensitive to local viewpoints and illuminated the longevity and interaction of diverse cultures and communities. It immediately became the standard work.
Since it first appeared much has changed in Malaysia and about Malaysia's place in the world. During the Mahathir regime (1981 to the present) Malaysians have finally emerged from the shell of colonialism to view their past from a new perspective. More research has been published by Malaysian as well as foreign academics.
This second edition incorporates recent findings and amplifies by some 30 pages the period since the Japanese invasion in 1941. Authoritative, stimulating and up to date, this remains the first port of call for scholars, students and any traveller seeking to discover Malaysia's history.
A. J. Stockwell is professor of imperial and commonwealth history, Royal Holloway, University of London.
A History of Malaysia. Second edition
Author - Barbara Watson Andaya and Leonard Y. Andaya
ISBN - 0 333 94503 4 and 94504 2
Publisher - Palgrave
Price - £49.50 and £17.50
Pages - 392