Travelling in Southeast Asia in early 2017 drew my attention to how little I really knew about the region. In Cambodia and Vietnam I was constantly reminded of the terrible loss of life experienced in the 20th century. I wanted to better understand how the events of the 20th century had come to pass.
Southeast Asia: An Introductory History does a brilliant job of outlining the many similarities and differences that exist between the countries in Southeast Asia. Osborne identifies common themes in their histories whilst also focusing in on each country’s specific developments.
While the book does cover ancient times (which is fascinating), its main focus is on developments since the introduction of Western influence to the region. The colonial period, WW2 and the subsequent independence movements are covered in enough detail to give a good understanding of why key events happened and why things are how they are today.
The region is clearly mega complex, with no single book able to explain any aspect in full detail. This book does, however, give you enough context to understand each country a lot better. I think it’ll make my next trip to Southeast Asia even more exciting.