BECK index

Summary and Evaluation of South Asia 1800-1950

by Sanderson Beck

British India 1800-1905
India's Freedom Struggle 1905-50
Tibet, Nepal, and Ceylon 1800-1950
Burma, Malaya, and Siam 1800-1950
Indochina 1800-1950
Indonesia 1800-1950
Australia and New Zealand 1800-1950

This chapter has been published in the book SOUTH ASIA 1800-1950.
For ordering information, please click here.

British India 1800-1905

Ancient India
India 78-1526
Mughal Empire
British in India to 1800

Governor-General Richard Wellesley (1798-1805) was an imperialist and forced Mysore, Tanjore, Surat, and Karnatak to accept subsidies in exchange for British protection and control. The Awadh (Oudh) nawab had to cede half his territory when accepting the subsidiary alliance. Wellesley censored newspapers, encouraged missionaries and private trading, and improved roads. Maratha conflicts caused a series of civil wars, and Wellesley began intervening with British forces in 1803. The British soon conquered Agra, Delhi, Gujarat, and Orissa. Wellesley’s wars nearly doubled the Company debt to £31.5 million, and he was replaced for acting illegally. Acting Governor-General Barlow reduced the forces and disbanded recruited Marathas, cutting the annual deficit. In 1806 English religious insensitivity provoked a mutiny at Madras. Governor-General Minto (1807-13) used diplomacy to head off conflicts and restore the finances of the Company.

Moira earl Lord Hastings became governor-general in 1813 and served for nine years. The 1813 Charter Act ended the Company’s monopoly on Indian trade and declared Crown sovereignty. After Wellington’s victory in the European war against Napoleon in 1815, the British forces in India went after the Pathan and Pindari brigands, forcing many Rajput states and others to accept defensive alliances. Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao II signed a treaty in June 1817, but he revolted in November. The Marathas suffered their final defeats and lost almost all their territory to the British in 1818. Their being overcome by the British was caused by many factors such as overextended conquests, Maratha conflicts, administrative anarchy, plundering armies, British money and superior military equipment and discipline, lack of Maratha nationalism, precarious agriculture, and lack of industry, trade, social equality, and education.

Young Ranjit Singh took over Lahore, won many victories, avoided fighting the British, and formed a Sikh confederation. In 1809 he made a treaty with the British, agreeing on the Sutlej River as their boundary. Shah Shuja ruled Afghanistan 1803-09 but had to flee and take refuge with Ranjit Singh and then the British. Ranjit Singh’s Sikh armies failed to conquer Kashmir but finally captured Multan in 1818.

Thomas Munro’s revenue reforms in Madras were eventually adopted throughout British India. Ranjit Singh extended his Sikh confederation and stimulated a war of succession in Afghanistan. James Buckingham published the Calcutta Journal but was deported by acting Governor-General John Adam. In Calcutta colleges were founded for Christians and Hindus along with a madrasa for Muslims. When Burma extended its realm into Assam and Arakan, they came into conflict with the British. In 1824 a British force occupied Rangoon. Many lives were lost by diseases, and Burma signed a treaty in January 1826, ceding territory to the British. The English also used force to control Bharatpur.

William Bentinck was governor-general 1828-35 and turned the deficit caused by the Burma war into a surplus. The British annexed Assam, Cachar, and other territories. Bentinck made special efforts to stop widow suicides (sati) and punish murdering robbers (thugs). Sayyid Ahmad of Bareilly led an Islamic revolt against Yar Muhammad in 1829 and proclaimed himself caliph; but his taxes and intolerance were unpopular, and he was killed at Balakot in 1831. Many planters settled in India to exploit cheap labor. Bentinck and Macaulay promoted schools that used English along with native languages. Shah Shuja’s forces tried to regain his throne in Afghanistan by besieging Qandahar in 1834, but he was defeated and returned to his exile at Ludhiana. The last Maratha raja, Pratap Singh, was removed from Satara by the British in 1839.

Rammohun Roy studied Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. He criticized Hindu idolatry and recommended the ethics of Jesus along with the Hindu theism of the Upanishads. He led the successful campaign to abolish widow burning (sati) and promoted social reforms through Bengali and Persian weeklies and in colleges. He helped to found what became Brahmo Samaj based on the worship of one God and social reforms to help humanity. He was the first prominent Hindu to visit England in 1831, and he influenced their Indian policies.

After Russian envoy Simonitch persuaded Persia’s Muhammad Shah to besiege Herat in 1837, the British navy took an island in the Persian Gulf to pressure the Persians to withdraw. The Persians retreated in September 1838, but Governor-General Auckland went forward with the planned invasion of Afghanistan by supporting Shah Shuja’s force with armies from Bengal and Bombay. Ranjit Singh made them go around his territory through Sind, which was forced to contribute 2,500,000 rupees to Shuja and Ranjit Singh. Macnaghten used gold to bribe local Afghans, and Shuja was enthroned at Qandahar in 1839. Dost Muhammad was defeated and fled. Shuja was not popular at Kabul, and the British occupation was resented. The British defeated Dost Muhammad again, and he surrendered. Macnaghten was captured and killed, and the remaining Bengal army agreed to withdraw, leaving behind most of their guns and muskets. In January 1842 the British army was ambushed and slaughtered going through the Khurd Kabul Pass. Ellenborough replaced Auckland and let Generals Pollock and Nott go back for revenge at Kabul to restore British honor before evacuating Afghanistan. In 1843 Dost Muhammad returned to rule Afghanistan. Ellenborough sent the aggressive Charles Napier to annex and govern Sind, where he established a modern police force. The British army also took over Gwalior.

After Ranjit Singh died in 1839, various of his relatives intrigued and killed each other over the Sikh power amid army revolts. Hindu raja Gulab Singh of Jammu gained Kashmir. Lal Singh and Tej Singh took control of the Sikhs, but both betrayed them secretly in the war against the British. Governor-General Hardinge imposed a treaty on the Punjab in 1846, reducing the Sikh army. Henry Lawrence became resident at Lahore and backed Tej Singh. John Lawrence replaced his brother, worked to improve the Punjab, and suppressed the raids and rebellion of unemployed Sikh soldiers.

The revolt spread, and Governor-General Dalhousie (1848-56) ordered the Punjab occupied. The British forces defeated the rebelling Sikh army, which surrendered in 1849. Dalhousie annexed the Punjab and appointed the Lawrence brothers to a ruling board. They supervised disarmament, reformed the military, established police, and promoted agriculture, roads, bridges, canals, and schools. Dalhousie used the doctrine of lapse when a male heir was lacking and other reasons to annex various states. He sent military forces to Lower Burma in 1852 and annexed it in December. The prosperous state of Awadh was accused of government corruption and annexed in 1856, taking land away from the Talukdars and raising rents on cultivators. Dalhousie also sponsored western education, public works, railroads, telegraph lines, a postal system, forest conservation, tea plantations, and prison reform.

As the English Company’s rule in India neared a century in 1857, many Indians were discontent because of their lack of opportunity, economic exploitation, and fear of Christian domination. In 1856 Governor-General C. J. Canning required all new recruits to serve abroad regardless of caste rules. A rumor that cow and pig grease was on the cartridges for the new Enfield rifles offended both Hindu and Muslim sepoys, who began to mutiny by refusing to use them, freeing prisoners, killing their officers, and plundering Europeans. In May 1857 the 7th Awadh regiment at Mirat set this pattern and spread it to Delhi, where mutineers took over the government. The mutiny spread throughout Awadh as Talukdars and chiefs turned it into a revolt. Henry Lawrence kept some sepoys loyal at Lakhnau, which was besieged for nine months. Rohilkhand had no British regiments and revolted. In Bengal, the Punjab, the Deccan, and the south the mutinies were sporadic and suppressed. Canning learned of the mutiny soon by telegraph and summoned British armies from Madras and Bombay. Punjab forces and Gurkhas helped the large British army suppress the rebellion in Awadh, Gwalior, and Rohilkhand. The rebels fled north into Nepal, which extradited only those believed to have killed Europeans. The rule of India by the British East India Company was ended in August 1858, and Queen Victoria proclaimed equal rights and religious protection for Indians in November. British power was reimposed by means of its superior military force over rebels who had tried to use chaotic violence in a desperate revolt.

After the mutiny, the proportion of British soldiers in the Bengal army was increased. Because of the huge war debt, Viceroy Canning imposed an income tax. The Police Act of 1861 replaced some military with civil power. Native principalities were recognized but under British control. Talukdars and others regained their land rights. British settlers came to India to make money and tended to be more racist. Indians were given some opportunities, but discrimination was still prevalent. John Lawrence was viceroy 1864-69 and borrowed to finance irrigation, transportation, and sanitation. He refrained from intervening in Afghanistan, though a British force invaded Bhutan in 1865. Viceroy Mayo increased the income tax and salt tax while decentralizing government. He was assassinated in 1872. Viceroy Northbrook reduced taxes and made sure a famine was prevented. By 1875 the population of India was about to reach one quarter of a billion.

About five and a half million people died in India during the famine of 1877 as relief efforts were applied according to economic considerations. A commission recommended better distribution of grain, providing employment for those in need, and allowing local responsibility. Removing the five percent import duty on manufactured cotton duties increased the deficit. Judicial floggings reached a high of 75,223 in 1878. The conservative Viceroy Lytton gave the government a monopoly on salt and censored vernacular newspapers. Queen Victoria became sovereign over the Indian states in 1877. Fearing a Russian advance, the British invaded Afghanistan again in November 1878, but the first resident Cavagnari and his staff were murdered on September 3, 1879. In the Second Afghan War the British established their ally Abdur Rahman in Qandahar and withdrew in 1881 after spending £17.5 million on an unnecessary war.

Devendranath Tagore revived Brahmo Samaj, and Keshab Sen led efforts for women’s rights and universal religion. Sayyid Ahmad Khan protected Bijnor for the British during the mutiny, and he analyzed its causes. He encouraged Muslims to learn English and get western education. Sayyid founded the Aligarh educational movement and the first Muslim college in 1875. That year Dayananda Saraswati, the Hindu fundamentalist, founded Arya Samaj. Bankim Chandra Chatterji wrote fourteen novels and became most famous in 1881 for the patriotic Anandamath, which contained the song “Bande Mataram” that reveres mother India and became the national anthem. Ranade was a judge and worked for spiritual and social reforms based on universal values and interfaith cooperation. He founded the Indian National Social Conference in 1887.

The mystical Ramakrishna became a priest at a Kali temple in Calcutta and practiced various spiritual disciplines to experience God. In 1875 he met Keshab Sen, who proclaimed the Religion of Harmony in 1879. Ramakrishna chose Vivekananda to be his disciple to the world and died in 1886. Vivekananda had been well educated, and he started a community of monks and traveled around teaching. In 1893 he became famous while speaking at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He taught that the materialistic West needed spirituality while India needed self-reliance. Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897, worked for social reforms, and prophesied that workers would take over the governments of Russia and China.

Helena Blavatsky traveled widely and with Olcott and Judge in New York founded the Theosophical Society (TS) in 1875 to promote universal brotherhood and to study religion and science. She published Isis Unveiled in 1877 and moved to Bombay with Olcott in 1879 to publish the monthly Theosophist. Adyar became the Theosophist headquarters in 1882, and thousands of Indians joined the TS. Blavatsky published The Secret Doctrine in 1888 to explain the spiritual laws of the universe. Annie Besant was born in London and became an influential reformer for women’s rights, birth control, and socialism. She became a Theosophist in 1889 and moved to India with Olcott in 1893. They promoted spiritual schools and lectured widely, and she emphasized love as the key to wisdom.

In 1885 Surendranath Banerjea and Allan Hume organized the Indian National Congress, which met annually as a growing political movement. Their efforts led to the 1891 Age of Consent Act that raised the age of marriage from ten to twelve. Ahmad Khan founded the Annual Muslim Educational Congress in 1886. In 1905 Gokhale started the Servants of India Society to help the poor, develop education, and work for self-government. Tilak edited two weekly newspapers in Marathi and English, and he was an early advocate of using civil disobedience to achieve independence. Aurobindo was well educated in England. In 1893 he returned to India, where he taught college, practiced yoga, and worked secretly for revolution.

The liberal Viceroy Ripon (1880-84) promoted free trade, local government, and other reforms. The French vied with the British for trade in Burma. After the British army occupied Mandalay, Viceroy Dufferin annexed Upper Burma in 1886; but pacification took 30,000 troops and five years. In 1891 the British intervened during a conflict in Manipur. Under Viceroy Lansdowne (1888-94) the Hindus and Muslims had separate representation, and communal conflicts caused riots. The British forward policy provoked violence on the frontiers. During the drought of 1896-97 about 4.5 million people died in western and central India, followed by about two more million in the famine of 1899. That year a religious revolt of Mundas led by Birsa was crushed.

Viceroy Curzon (1899-1905) tried to make the government of India more efficient and reduced military expenditures. The British invaded Tibet in 1903 and demanded 2,500,000 rupees before they would withdraw. In 1905 Curzon partitioned Bengal into two provinces, provoking a boycott of British textiles and the Swadeshi movement for self-reliance.

India's Freedom Struggle 1905-50

The partition of Bengal was announced in July 1905, and the same month massive meetings of protest began that soon led to boycotting English cloth and other products, not using English speech, resigning Government offices, and socially boycotting persons who bought foreign articles. Extremists started a new National Party, and Aurobindo helped found the National Council of Education in 1906. Viceroy Minto gave Muslims special representation on government bodies, and the All-India Muslim League was founded to support the British. Hindu-Muslim riots began breaking out in 1907. Aurobindo wrote seven articles on “Passive Resistance” in Bande Mataram to advise resisting the British Government and developing self-government.

In 1907 the Indian National Congress was split as the Moderates expelled the Extremists led by Tilak and Aurobindo. A crowd revolted in Rawalpindi, and sixty people were arrested. The British began passing repressive laws, and several publications were shut down. Aurobindo and others were charged with sedition. Assassination attempts were made on British officials. The trial of the Aligarh Conspiracy lasted months during which two murders resulted in four hangings. Four men were sentenced to life and ten to five years or more. Aurobindo was in jail for a year but was acquitted. Tilak was sentenced to six years for seditious writings. Mohandas Gandhi was using nonviolence for reforms in South Africa; but after visiting London he wrote Hind Swaraj (Indian Self-Rule) in 1909. Some revolutionaries used robberies to raise money for weapons, and in 1910 many received long prison sentences. The Press Act of 1910 led to 350 presses and 300 newspapers being penalized while the provocative Anglo-Indian press was not restricted.

The British ended the partition of Bengal in 1912 and reorganized the province. After Viceroy Hardinge was seriously wounded by a bomb, the severe Defence of India Act was passed. In 1913 the Muslim League adopted the Congress goal of self-government. India sent 1,215,338 men overseas and suffered 101,439 casualties, paid its expenses, and even contributed an extra £100 million for the British empire’s war. Some Muslims rebelled against fighting Turks. In 1915 the Indian Home Rule League was established, and Tilak was welcomed back to the Congress. In 1916 Tilak and Besant went on speaking tours for Home Rule. In December at Lakhnau the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League united to demand reforms for self-government within the empire. Besant led the effort for woman suffrage, and in 1917 she was detained for 94 days. In August the British headed off passive resistance by promising concessions toward responsible government. Moderates formed the National Liberal Federation, but the Montagu-Chelmsford Report published in July 1918 disappointed even the Moderates. The British would not let Tilak or Gandhi attend the Peace Conference.

Annie Besant and the clairvoyant Charles Leadbeater discovered young Krishnamurti and prepared him to be a channel for the World Teacher. The 1909 book At the Feet of the Master attributed to the master Kuthumi through Krishnamurti describes the spiritual and ethical teachings of Theosophy. Besant founded the Order of the Star to promote Krishnamurti and these teachings, but in 1929 Krishnamurti himself renounced claims of divine guidance and disbanded the Order. Bhagavan Das was a Sanskrit scholar and Theosophist who wrote The Science of the Emotions, The Science of Peace, The Science of Social Organization, and The Essential Unity of All Religions.

Aurobindo became a spiritual recluse at Pondicherry in 1910, and from 1914 to 1921 he wrote numerous articles that were collected into books. In The Ideal of Human Unity Aurobindo described a balance of individual freedom with socialism and a world federation moderated by the universal religion of love. War and Self-Determination explains how the Great War destroyed human illusions about how to prevent wars, and Aurobindo suggested that only the realization of oneness and true self-determination will end killing. The Human Cycle also emphasizes human freedom and self-mastery. In The Life Divine Aurobindo described the future evolution of humanity from the mental to the spiritual consciousness of divine love.

Rabindranath Tagore wrote poems, stories, novels, plays, autobiographies, and essays, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. He experimented with humanistic education and went on lecture tours. Tagore praised the nonviolent methods of Gandhi but criticized his destroying British cloth and regimen of spinning. Tagore agreed with Aurobindo’s religious philosophy of oneness and love, but he also emphasized creative imagination.

Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and founded the Satyagraha Ashram. He began wearing home-spun khadi and spinning to encourage self-sufficient village industries. In 1917 he helped indigo workers in Champaran gain better treatment, and his plan to start a nonviolent campaign persuaded the British to abolish their indenture system. In 1918 Gandhi fasted to support a strike by textile workers in Ahmadabad. His methods relied on holding to the truth (satyagraha) and nonviolence (ahimsa). Gandhi avoided doing any harm to others but was willing to suffer punishment for not cooperating with evil in order to reveal the truth about the injustice he was attempting to remedy. He believed that active nonviolence requires more courage and fearlessness. Gandhi gave detailed guidance for conducting a nonviolent campaign, and he advocated not cooperating with an unjust government. His constructive programs included Hindu-Muslim friendship, removing racial discrimination, abstaining from drugs, village industries, education, hygiene, labor unions, and helping the poor. For Gandhi nonviolence is based on faith in the God of love.

An Afghan revolt against the British was defeated in 1919. That year the British imposed the repressive Rowlatt Bills in India, and Gandhi organized a nonviolent campaign. When violence broke out, he admitted he had made a “Himalayan miscalculation” and suspended the campaign. At Amritsar a massacre occurred on April 13 when General Dyer ordered his troops to shoot at a nonviolent crowd of 10,000 for ten minutes, killing 379 and wounding 1,137 people. Tagore renounced his knighthood in protest, but many British considered Dyer a hero. Gandhi supported the Muslim Khilafat movement that aimed to retain control over Mecca and Medina by the Sultan of Turkey, and he organized a non-cooperation campaign that began in August 1920. The Indian National Congress joined the non-cooperation campaign with the goal of independence in September, and they boycotted the November elections, courts, schools, and taxes. The British implemented some reforms in 1921, but the dyarchy system still maintained English control over the government. During the Prince of Wales’ visit to Bombay in November 1921 riots occurred, and 53 people were killed. Gandhi cancelled civil disobedience in Bardoli and fasted until the violence ceased. In Calcutta 25,000 people were arrested. After a mob killed 22 police at Chauri Chaura on February 5, 1922, Gandhi cancelled the non-cooperation campaign, making Jawaharlal Nehru and others in prison angry. In March the British sentenced Gandhi to six years, but he was released after 22 months.

Congress ended civil disobedience, and C. R. Das and Motilal Nehru formed the Swarajya party, which did well in the 1923 elections. The Assembly passed some reforms. Akali Sikhs in the Punjab used violence to control Sikh temples and then passive resistance to protest non-Sikh commissioners; 400 were killed with 2,000 wounded, and 30,000 were arrested. The Hindu Mahasabha was formed and reconverted Muslims. In six years 122 communal riots resulted in 450 deaths. In 1927 the Simon Commission excluded Indians. In 1928 Gandhi announced and Vallabhbhai Patel led a nonviolent campaign in Bardoli. A committee led by Motilal Nehru drafted a constitution, and Gandhi proposed giving the British until the end of 1929 to accept it or face non-cooperation. That year a half million Indian workers were on strike.

Premchand (1880-1936) wrote realistic novels and short stories in Hindi and Urdu about social problems. He showed compassion for the plight of the poor and the oppressed, and he portrayed more women characters than men. Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) was educated in Europe, became a barrister, and wrote poetry and prose advocating Pan-Islamism and progressive self-expression. In 1930 he suggested that Muslims in northwest India should demand a separate state.

On January 26, 1930 Jawaharlal Nehru proclaimed India’s independence, and Gandhi announced an 11-point program. Civil disobedience began on March 12 as Gandhi led a march to the sea to make salt, and by May more than 100,000 people were in jail. Finally Viceroy Irwin met with Gandhi, and they signed a pact on March 5, 1931 that gave concessions for the end of civil disobedience. Gandhi went to London in September, but negotiation failed. Civil disobedience began again, and Gandhi was arrested. In jail he fasted for the rights of the Harijans (untouchables) in September 1932. British repression and police brutality were widely reported as 120,000 were arrested. Gandhi fasted again in May 1933 and was released, but he was arrested again, fasted, and freed again in August.

Muslim leaders negotiated with the British and began asking for Pakistan. Some Hindus and Muslims used robbery and violent methods, and they were severely suppressed. In May 1934 the All-India Congress called off the civil disobedience campaign. In 1935 the Congress party formed a coalition with Jinnah’s Muslims. The Government of India Act allowed provinces more autonomy. The Congress party made gains in legislatures, and the socialist Jawaharlal Nehru was elected president twice. Congress made progress in primary education, prohibiting alcohol, and protecting untouchables.

Congress opposed the Fascists but refused to cooperate with war preparations, and Gandhi recommended nonviolence. In 1939 Shridharani published War without Violence, a comprehensive study of Gandhi’s methods. The Muslim League supported the war, and in 1940 Jinnah demanded a Muslim state in northwestern and eastern India. Congress demanded independence and launched civil disobedience in October with individuals speaking against the war, and 14,000 were in prison by May 1941. Viceroy Linlithgow released the satyagrahis on December 3, 1941. Because the British were denying them freedom and democracy, many Indians refused to support the British in World War II. In the “Quit India” campaign that began in August 1942 Gandhi and the nonviolent leaders were quickly imprisoned. Massive sabotage damaged post offices, railways, and police stations. The police and military killed thousands and arrested more than 60,000. Many Indian prisoners of war joined the Indian National Army that was organized by Subhas Bose to fight for the Japanese in Burma. In 1943 millions of Indians died in a famine. Gandhi was released in 1944, and Jinnah demanded six provinces for the Muslims.

At the end of the war the British owed India one billion pounds and held elections that were won by the Congress party and the Muslim League. British experts supervised the writing of a new constitution, and the Congress party accepted an interim government that began in September 1946. During Muslim League protests thousands were killed in communal violence before Jinnah suggested a compromise in October. Jinnah still demanded Pakistan, and disturbances continued in the disputed areas. Louis Mountbatten became viceroy in March 1947, and he helped the two sides accept partition based on local voting that divided the Punjab, Bengal, and Assam. On August 15, 1947 Pakistan and India officially became dominions in the British commonwealth.

Ten million people migrated across the new border in the Punjab. At least 200,000 people were killed, and fourteen million lost their homes. British troops withdrew over six months. Gandhi fasted to prevent violence in Calcutta, and then he went to help Delhi. Kashmir was majority Muslim but was ruled by a Hindu maharaja. A protracted conflict developed, and the UN Security Council appointed the Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) in January 1948. Gandhi fasted again and was assassinated by an angry Hindu. India absorbed 554 princely states. The mostly Hindu Hyderabad had a tradition of Muslim rulers, but after resistance it joined India in January 1950. The Kashmir conflict persisted, and a cease-fire line was established in 1949. Both India and Pakistan ran deficits to spend most of their budgets on the military. Pakistan made Urdu its only official language even though most in East Pakistan spoke Bengali. India adopted English for fifteen years, and then Hindi would be the official language. Pakistan refused to go along with devaluing the pound sterling, and their trade with India stopped for seven months. Prime ministers Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan agreed on minorities and trade in April 1950. As the Cold War developed, Nehru pioneered a non-aligned foreign policy.

Tibet, Nepal, and Ceylon 1800-1950

Tibet was ostensibly under Dalai Lamas, but several died so young that regents governed most of the time between 1804 and 1895. The three largest Buddhist monasteries were represented on the Council (Kashag) and later in the Assembly. After Kashmir invaded, Tibet made a treaty in 1842. The Gurkhas invaded and occupied four districts in Tibet, and in the 1856 treaty the Tibetans agreed to pay Nepal 10,000 rupees a year. In 1876 the Chinese agreed to let the British explore Tibet. In 1888 the British drove some encroaching Tibetans out of Sikkim. Tibetans resented Chinese interference and tried to obstruct their trade with India in 1893. The 13th Dalai Lama came of age in 1895. British troops entered Tibet in 1903 to hold talks and defeated resisting Tibetans in 1904. The Dalai Lama fled, but Tibet agreed not to deal with any foreign power without British approval.

While the 13th Dalai Lama was in exile most of the time, invading Chinese dominated Tibet. Fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 brought changes to China, and the Dalai Lama returned to Tibet the next year and to Lhasa in 1913. Reforms were made in Tibet, and in 1914 the British mediated a treaty; but the Chinese refused to sign. During the war the British sold rifles and ammunition to Tibet, which drove some Chinese out in 1917. Tibet, China, and England signed a treaty on August 19, 1918. The British prevented an incident from escalating to war between Tibet and Nepal in 1922. The Dalai Lama kept the military from becoming too strong and governed in a humanitarian way, prohibiting drugs and gambling. Border conflicts with the Chinese ended in a treaty in 1933, the year the 13th Dalai Lama died. Lungshan took control and declared Tibet a republic. After four months the Council of Ministers imprisoned Lungshan for life. During 1934 Tibetan troops kept the Chinese Communists from invading. The 14th Dalai Lama was found and enthroned in 1940, and the next year the conservative lama Taktra Rimpoche became regent.

During World War II Tibetans prayed for peace and remained neutral but bought ammunition from the British. The United States and Nationalist China sent them gifts. In 1947 a violent attempt by ex-regent Rating to regain power failed. In 1949 Tibet expelled Chinese officials and traders, but in October 1950 Chinese troops invaded eastern Tibet, and Beijing claimed Tibet was part of China. The United Nations did not help Tibet, and the 14th Dalai Lama left Lhasa.

In 1814 the British went to war with the Gurkhas over Tarai, but the 1817 treaty made Nepal a British ally. Resident Hodgson made a reciprocity agreement in 1834. Nepal suffered under intrigues involving the Pandes faction until the capable Jang Bahadur was appointed prime minister in 1846. Nepal went to war with Tibet in 1854, and they made a treaty in 1856. Jang Bahadur had visited England in 1850, and he supported the British in quelling the Indian mutiny in 1858. After his death in 1877, his Rana family struggled for power. In 1885 Bir Shamsher gained power and governed until his death in 1901. Chandra Shamsher soon overthrew his progressive brother Dev and formed a military alliance with the British. Many Gurkhas served in the Indian army, and Nepal recruited 200,000 men during the Great War. The Rana family maintained its alliance with the British, though in 1939 Juddha Shamsher refused to allow the Nepalese army to go overseas. Nepal remained aloof from World War II, but Gurkhas helped quell communal riots in India.

The English took over Sri Lanka from the Dutch in 1798 and made it their colony of Ceylon in 1802, taking over the monopolies of the pearl fisheries, cinnamon, salt, and tobacco. The British fought the Kandyans for two years until General Maitland took a defensive posture in 1805. The English introduced jury trials and land grants for Europeans. Their troops finally took Kandy in 1815 and gained sovereignty in a treaty, but they had to agree to protect the Buddhist religion. Governor Brownrigg (1812-20) revived the government-imposed labor requirement. The British Colony of Ceylon took over the Company’s monopoly on cinnamon in 1822, and its monopoly on salt was lucrative. Colebrooke investigated and recommended extensive reforms in administration, revenues, expenditures, and the compulsory labor system, most of which were implemented in 1833 along with Cameron’s judicial reforms. The British ended land grants and started selling land by auction to planters. The Government began giving grants to Christian schools in 1841, and the number of schools greatly increased. The Government stopped protecting Buddhism in 1853, but new societies founded after 1862 fostered a purified Buddhism. Railroads helped coffee dominate the economy of Ceylon by the 1870s.

Theosophists came to Ceylon in 1880 and founded 40 Buddhist schools. Tamils revived Hinduism with more than 150 schools. By 1900 the Christian missionaries had more than 1,100 schools. After British exploitation was exposed, the grain taxes were abolished in 1892. Christians began a temperance movement, but Buddhist temperance leaders expanded it and were arrested. In 1912 Ceylon had four million people, but only three thousand voted. The Ceylon National Congress was founded in 1919, and more than 200,000 men could vote in 1921. The Young Lanka League got the poll tax abolished in 1922, and Goonesinha organized labor unions. Kandyans formed their own National Assembly in 1925 and requested regional autonomy in 1927. That year a minimum wage helped plantation workers. Ceylon was the first Asian nation to give all women the vote in 1931. The Great Depression devastated Ceylon’s exports, and Marxists began the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP). Governor Caldecott approved constitutional reforms in 1939, but LSSP leaders were detained without trial for opposing war in 1940.

Senanayake cooperated with the British and led the effort for constitutional reform. Ceylon prospered from military expenditures during World War II and provided rubber for the Allies. Senanayake led the United National Party, and on February 4, 1948 Ceylon became the independent nation of Sri Lanka. The Government provided more funds for education, and the literacy rate increased.

Burma, Malaya, and Siam 1800-1950

Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands to 1800

Burma had a conscripted army but suffered from wars with Siam (1797-1804) and rebels until 1815. Burma seized Manipur in 1823 but lost parts of its empire to the British by wars in 1824-26 and 1852. After a series of violent rulers, Burma’s King Mindon Min (r. 1853-78) made peace and ruled wisely as he revived Buddhism. He survived a family revolt in 1866 and made commercial treaties with the British. Thibaw became king in 1878, killed many relatives, and turned to alcohol as corruption reigned. Foreign businesses demanded British intervention, and Burma’s secret 1885 treaty with France was exposed. Viceroy Dufferin demanded Burma pay a large fine for a commercial fraud, and the British invaded Upper Burma with 10,000 soldiers and annexed it into India in January 1886. Rebellion against the British occupation went on for several years and cost the British £865,000 by 1890. British courts emphasized property rights, and Burma’s forests and oil were exploited.

During the Great War 8,000 Burmans volunteered and fought in Iraq. The Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) worked for self-government and became the General Council of Burmese Associations (GCBA) in 1920. University students went on strike. Parliament refused to liberalize Burma’s elections, and in 1922 the GCBA boycotted them; but Nationalists elected 28 candidates. Secret societies worked for home rule and boycotted the Government, and in 1924 a GCBA conference voted not to pay taxes. A coalition formed the People’s Party, but they ran out of money in 1929.

The Depression caused a decline in rice exports, and labor conflicts ensued. Saya Sen led a rebellion in 1931, and Government troops killed 3,000 rebels. Burmans became divided over the issue of separation from India. Burma was separated from India in 1937 with a new constitution, but the Governor still held much power. University students demanded reforms, and Aung San took them to the new House of Representatives. In July 1938 a procession became a riot; 4,306 were arrested, and 1,800 were prosecuted. The Governor cracked down, and two newspapers were banned. In 1939 the Burma Revolutionary Party joined with Ba Maw’s party in the Freedom Bloc, demanding a constituent assembly. Aung San and other leaders met with Gandhi and Nehru. Ba Maw opposed the war and was sent to prison. U Saw became premier and opened the Burma Road to Chinese traffic.

Japan promised Burma liberation from European colonialism and invaded in December 1941. Japanese forces drove out the British in early 1942 with some assistance from the Burma Independence Army. The Japanese exploited the resources and labor of the Burmans, who suffered from overwork, starvation, and disease. Premier Tojo promised Burma independence in 1943, and Burma declared war on Britain and the United States. Ba Maw became head of state, prevented making Japanese compulsory in schools, and insisted on autonomy. Aung San renamed the army the Burma National Army (BNA), and the Japanese-backed Indian National Army surrendered. Mountbatten contacted Aung San and in February 1945 sent weapons. On March 27 Aung San led the BNA against the Japanese, and the British invaded and entered Rangoon on May 5. The Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) demanded a constitution and democracy. Aung San declined a British commission and led the People’s Volunteer Organization (PVO), but the British governor Dorman-Smith tried to reinstate colonial exploitation.

Aung San demanded elections and independence in 1947, and the PVO won a majority in the Assembly that voted to withdraw from the British empire in June. Prime Minister Aung San and eight other leaders were assassinated on July 19. Thakin Nu of the AFPFL became premier and signed a treaty with Prime Minister Attlee on October 17 that recognized Burma’s independence. In 1948 the Communists and Karens began a revolt that was only partially contained by 1950.

The British made Penang a presidency in 1808, and Raffles made Singapore a British port in 1819. In 1824 a treaty recognized English control over Malaya and the Dutch over most of the islands. The British combined Singapore, Melaka, Penang, and Province Wellesley into the Straits Settlements and gave rewards for capturing pirates. Siam ruled over Kedah. James Brooke governed Sarawak (1841-63) for the British, exploiting minerals, and his nephew Charles Brooke ruled Sarawak (1868-1917) and kept out European developers. In the 19th century many Chinese immigrated into Malaya to work in mines and had conflicts between their secret societies. In 1874 the British resolved Malayan conflicts in the Pangkor Treaty and began expanding their influence. Resident Birch in Perak was murdered in 1875, and Governor William Jervois ordered more active government. Straits Settlements governor Weld (1880-87) sent Frank Swettenham to Selangor, and its trade went from $2 million to $11 million in five years. Resident Hugh Low in Perak (1877-89) allowed more local control and abolished debt slavery in 1883 as tin mining multiplied. The British crushed a rebellion led by Datuk Bahaman in the 1891 Pahang War.

In 1896 Pahang, Perak, Selangor, and Negeri Sembilan became the Federated Malay States, and Resident General Swettenham unified the civil services. Medical research led to reductions in smallpox, malaria, berberi, yaws, and hookworm. Confucian Kang Youwei came to Singapore in 1899 and promoted education. In 1909 Siam agreed to withdraw from Terengganu, Kelantan, Kedah, and Perlis, and these became the Unfederated Malay States. Malaya was producing more than half the world’s rubber by 1914. During the Great War the German residents were interned in Singapore, where Punjabi Muslims mutinied. In 1921 Malaya had 1,627,108 Malays, 1,173,354 Chinese, 471,628 Indians, and less than 46,000 Europeans. The immigration of Japanese prostitutes ended in 1927, and Malaya began restricting other immigration in 1931. Malaya reduced the lucrative opium trade. Europeans using dredging took over most of the tin mines. In the 1930s a Japanese firm increased its exports of iron ore from Malaya. Leftists formed the Young Malay Union in 1938. In 1941 the Chinese in Malaya outnumbered the Malayans with 77% of Singapore. Most rice growers were Malays.

Japan invaded Malaya on December 8, 1941 and sank two British battleships before occupying Sarawak, Brunei, and North Borneo. They captured Singapore and 166,000 prisoners on February 15, 1942. Japanese forces occupied Malaya but ceded the Unfederated Malay States to Siam in October 1943. The British regained Malaya in September 1945 and announced the Malayan Union Plan in January 1946. Health services and education improved. Unions organized strikes, but the British declared them illegal. The Federation of Malaya began on February 1, 1948. The Malayan Communist Party was banned and went underground. Two colleges combined to form the University of Malaya in 1949.

The general Chakri founded a new dynasty in Siam as Rama I (r. 1782-1809), and Rama II gained territory in northern Cambodia. Rama III (r. 1824-51) made a commercial treaty with the English in 1826. King Mongkut (r. 1851-68) opened up trade by making “unequal treaties” with many Europeans and began modernizing Siam. His son Chulalongkorn (r. 1868-1910) had an English tutor and implemented reforms, but he put his many relatives in positions of authority and resisted democracy. In 1893 French ships blockaded Bangkok to force Siam to withdraw from east of the Mekong River. The King appointed Europeans and allowed more reforms. Canal projects increased rice production. Rebellions against taxes were crushed by Siam’s growing army. Siam ceded Khmer provinces to France in 1907 and Malay states to England in 1909 in exchange for ending their treaty advantages. Siam adapted the Code Napoleon in 1908. Many Chinese men immigrated and married natives.

King Vajiravudh (1910-25) organized his personal army that stopped a coup attempt in 1912. He had a western education but was corrupted by male favorites. He wrote “The Jews of the East” about the Chinese he feared. He did not allow democracy, and uncensored newspapers were closed down. Vajiravudh enabled girls to attend school and improved the status of women. King Prajadhipok (1925-32) reduced royal expenditures forty percent and arrested Chinese Communists. The depression caused deficits, but peasants managed to keep their land.

Pridi and Phibun founded the People’s Party to work for independence in 1927. Pridi wrote a constitution, and they took over Bangkok on June 24, 1932; Prajadhipok became a constitutional monarch with a half-elected Assembly. Pridi’s Economic Plan called for the government to manage the economy. In 1933 he was exiled and returned as the People’s Party won the November elections. Phibun controlled the army and stopped a coup, and he was allied with Japan. The Government censored the press and radio. Prajadhipok abdicated on March 2, 1935. Education, hospitals, and public services were better funded. Wichit promoted the fine arts and his own writing about Thai heroes. In 1937 when the Chinese boycotted the Japanese, Wichit denounced the Chinese as “worse than the Jews;” discrimination followed. Phibun became prime minister on December 26, 1938, increased the military budget, and dissolved the Assembly. Siam became Thailand in June 1939.

Thailand cooperated with Japan and took part of Cambodia from the French in January 1941. Phibun allowed the Japanese to invade so they could attack Burma, and in January 1942 Thailand declared war on Britain and the United States. Regent Pridi refused to sign it and went into hiding. The Japanese exploited Thailand, but the Free Thai resistance worked for the Western Allies. The Assembly removed Phibun in July 1944, and collaborating Prime Minister Khuang was replaced in August 1945. After an election in January 1946 Pridi became prime minister. He wrote a constitution that was adopted, and he went abroad in August. Territory was returned to French Indochina, and Thailand became a member of the United Nations in 1947. Fearing a Communist revolution, the military put Phibun back in power on November 8. Pridi was accused of regicide and fled. In February 1949 a coup attempt by Pridi and the Free Thai was defeated, and Phibun had dissidents arrested and tortured. Thailand offered troops to the US for the Korean War and received millions in aid for Phibun’s military government.

Indochina 1800-1950

Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands to 1800

Cambodia was ruled by King Ang Chan II (1806-35) and paid tribute to Siam and Vietnam. Vietnamese Emperor Minh Mang occupied Cambodia in 1835, and sporadic resistance occurred until 1847, the year Ang Duong was crowned king of Cambodia. He was succeeded in 1860 by Ang Vody, who paid tribute to the French and made a secret treaty with Siam. In 1864 he made a treaty with the French and was crowned King Norodom, but three years later Vietnam and Siam divided up Cambodia. Norodom made concessions to the French. In 1885 Prince Si Votha led a revolt against the French; but the next year Norodom persuaded his subjects to surrender, and French Indochina annexed Cambodia. The French supplied Norodom with opium, and he died in 1904. King Sisowath was also given opium, and the French made the poor work on roads up to ninety days a year. The French began administering local justice in 1923. Khmers complained that the French, Vietnamese, and Chinese dominated their country, but they could do little.

In July 1940 Cambodia came under the Vichy French, and anti-French Nagara Vatta was repressed. After a brief war, the Japanese persuaded the French to cede parts of Cambodia and Laos to Thailand in January 1941. Japanese troops invaded Cambodia in December and stationed 8,000 troops there in 1942, but the French still governed and suppressed dissent. On March 9, 1945 Japanese forces disarmed the French and let King Sihanouk proclaim Cambodia independent four days later. The French returned on September 12 and arrested Prime Minister Thanh a month later. Khmer Issaraks attacked the French but accepted amnesty under a new constitution in December 1946. Sihanouk signed a treaty with the French, but Democrats did not ratify it in the Assembly. In 1950 the United States began giving aid to Cambodia and Laos.

Laos was a vassal of Siam’s Rama I. Chao-Anou began ruling Vientiane in 1805, and in 1825 he marched on Bangkok; but the Siamese army defeated his armies in 1828. Laos was dominated by Siam and Vietnam, and they fought over it in 1888. In 1893 French ships forced Bangkok to cede territory east of the Mekong River. Sisavangvong was king of Luang Prabang 1904-59, but the French governed the rest of Laos. Tribes rebelled against taxes, and 150 people were killed in 1902. In the north revolts were active between 1914 and 1921. Laos lacked education and developed only a few schools in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Vichy French governed Laos 1940-45, and in May 1941 some territory was lost to Thailand. The Japanese seized Viang Chan in March 1945 and Luang Prabang in April, and King Sisavangvong declared independence from France. Prime Minister Phetxarat took over Viang Chan from the Japanese in late August and appealed to Sisavangvong, but he welcomed the French in the south and dismissed Phetxarat. The Chinese occupied the north and refused to recognize the French. The Pathet Lao formed a National Assembly in the north and deposed the King. Suphanuvong returned from Vietnam and became Phetxarat’s minister of Foreign Affairs. In November the French withdrew from northern Laos. In March 1946 the French used planes, armored cars, and artillery to defeat the Lao Issara at Thakhaek. Sisavangvong formed a constitutional monarchy, and Phetxarat accepted the compromise. When the Chinese withdrew, the French took over Viang Chan and Luang Prabang in the spring. On August 27 Laos joined the Indochinese Federation in the French Union, and an Assembly was elected in December. The French controlled the judicial system, security, and the conscripted army.

In 1801 the Tay Son were defeated by Nguyen Anh, who reunited Vietnam as Emperor Gia Long and put down peasant uprisings. His son Minh Mang (r. 1819-41) applied Confucianism, persecuted Christians, and rejected European trade. Like China, Vietnam used civil service exams. Tu Duc (r. 1847-83) was also a pious Confucian and had thousands of Christians killed, but he was forced to cede provinces to France in 1862 and 1874. Governor Le Myre de Vilers (1879-82) tried to bring reforms to Cochinchina.

Chinese forces helped the Vietnamese fight the French in Tonkin in 1883, and China declared war on France in August 1884; a treaty was signed in June 1885. After two years of palace intrigues and replacing emperors in Hué, the French crowned Dong Kanh in September 1885. Emperor Ham Nghi had fled with Regent Ton That Thuyet to the mountains, and they organized resistance against the French. Cochinchina rebelled against the French for eighteen months. In 1887 the French combined Cochinchina, Annam, Tonkin, and Cambodia into the Indochinese Union. Most of the insurgents were defeated by 1896, and the war cost the French 750 million gold francs.

Governor-General Paul Doumer (1896-1902) raised revenues by monopolizing opium, alcohol, and salt while increasing customs duties. He started long railway lines, and more than 25,000 Vietnamese and Chinese died working on them; but education had little funding, and taxes fell heavily on the poor.

Historian Phan Boi Chau and Prince Cuong De started the Modernization Association in 1903. Phan urged the Vietnamese to study in Japan and developed a program for a progressive Vietnam. Phan Chu Trinh favored nonviolent change and wrote a letter to Governor-General Beau on August 15, 1906 that Beau had printed in Paris newspapers. In May 1907 Phan Chu Trinh opened a progressive school in Hanoi, but the French closed the school in December and arrested the teachers. Peasants in central Vietnam began a tax resistance movement. Demonstrations spread, and some protestors were killed or executed. Phan Chu Trinh and hundreds were imprisoned on the island of Poulo Condore. France got Japan to turn in anti-colonialists, and many Vietnamese students went to Siam. Vietnam had three times as many jails as schools.

After the 1911 Chinese revolution Phan Boi Chao and Cuong De favored a republic and formed a government in exile at Canton. While the wealthy French became richer, many peasants lost their land. Violent acts of rebellion resulted in more executions. The socialist Sarraut returned as governor-general in January 1917 and released Phan Boi Chau from prison. Sarraut reopened the University of Hanoi and added schools. Governor-General Merlin (1923-25) cut back education and survived an attempted assassination. Ho Chih Minh joined the Communist Party in France and visited Moscow. He helped found the Revolutionary Youth League of Vietnam in 1925. That year Phan Chu Trinh returned to Vietnam after knowing Ho in France. Phan died of tuberculosis in March 1926; his funeral organized by Constitutionalists and progressives lasted a week while workers and students went on strike. Radicals turned in Phan Boi Chau for the reward, and he was sentenced to life. The Socialist Alexandre Varenne (1925-27) improved the labor code. In 1928 Huynh Thuc Khang called for a constituent assembly to draft a constitution. The Party of Annam for Independence (PAI) sent an appeal to the League of Nations, and PAI students in France petitioned the Minister of Colonies.

Governor-General Pasquier (1928-34) facilitated the French exploitation of Vietnam. Ho Chih Minh’s Youth League became the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) in June 1929. In 1930 increasing strikes and revolts led to hundreds being killed and executed without trials while thousands were imprisoned. After planes bombed Vinh, peasants took over northern Annam for several months. The French had 10,000 soldiers and killed about 10,000 Vietnamese to crush the resistance in 1931. Hated mandarins were executed. Ho Chih Minh was deported and went to China before studying for five years in Moscow. Trotskyists were elected to seats on the Saigon municipal council and gained control in 1935. In the south the Cao Dai religion grew and became nationalistic.

The liberal Jules Brevié (1936-39) released 1,300 political prisoners and reduced the work day to eight hours. The ICP demanded various political and economic reforms and worked to unite progressives. The Vietnamese economy improved in the late 1930s, but it still lacked industries and foreign trade. The number of students increased, and books were published on rural economics, national liberation, and women’s issues. In 1939 the French increased the army to 100,000 and lengthened the work day, and on September 26 they banned the ICP and arrested two thousand. The ICP denounced French imperialism and Japanese fascism.

Vichy France made a treaty with Japan, which invaded Vietnam and let the French govern. Communists rebelled against the French and Japanese, and in May 1941 Ho Chih Minh organized the Viet Minh for independence. Two months later Japan occupied most of Vietnam. Allied bombing made it difficult for Japan to trade with Vietnam during the Pacific War. Ho Chih Minh was imprisoned in China for a year, but then he and Giap organized Viet Minh resistance to the Japanese occupation in Tonkin with help from the US. Gaullists wanted to reclaim Indochina and in 1944 would not send weapons to the ICP. Giap organized a liberation army in December, and Japan added 60,000 troops. On March 9, 1945 the Japanese began disarming and arresting the French. Bad transportation caused starvation in the north, and more than a million Vietnamese died.

In August 1945 the Viet Minh took over Hanoi and Hué, and in Saigon large demonstrations celebrated the revolution. Ho Chih Minh proclaimed the independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) on September 2. Four days later British occupation forces began arriving in the south, demanding the Vietnamese disarm. They went on strike, and thousands were imprisoned. French troops entered Saigon in October, and the British recognized the French as the civil administration south of the 16th parallel. About 50,000 Chinese troops occupied northern Vietnam for six months. The Viet Minh Government announced elections and implemented numerous reforms in taxes, land, farming, and education. The anti-Communist Chinese made the Viet Minh form a coalition with other groups. The Viet Minh won the elections in January 1946 but gave the opposition parties 70 seats. The Assembly elected Ho Chih Minh president, and in March they made an agreement with the French to replace the Chinese. That summer Giap built up the Liberation Army to 60,000, and Binh led a guerrilla movement in the south. France sent more troops to Cochinchina while they negotiated with the Viet Minh, who adopted a new constitution in November.

That month fighting broke out in Haiphong. On December 17 the French demanded that the Viet Minh in Hanoi disarm, and they declared martial law. Two days later the French-Vietnam War began, and the DRV government fled to the mountains. At first the Viet Minh used defensive guerrilla tactics while the French eventually made Bao Dai head of state in June 1949. Helped by the victorious Chinese Communists, the Viet Minh expanded their army to 160,000, and Giap launched a successful offensive by the northern border in September 1950. The United States began increasing its military aid to French Indochina.

Indonesia 1800-1950

Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands to 1800

The Netherlands monarchy gained sovereignty over Java in 1800, but European conflicts brought the French-appointed Daendels (1808-11) and then the English Raffles (1811-16), who reformed Java and reduced slavery. Tambora’s volcanic eruption in 1815 put out so much ash that it affected the global climate. The Dutch regained control of Java in 1816 and prohibited slavery, but 200,000 died in the failed Javanese rebellion 1825-30. On Sumatra the Dutch defeated the Padri in a long war 1821-38. Between 1831 and 1877 the Dutch exploited export crops to transfer 832 million guilders out of Java despite famines in the 1840s. Bali fought against the Dutch 1845-49 and again in 1858 and 1868. Netherlands forces also intervened in Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sulawesi in the 1850s. Dekker’s 1860 novel Max Havelaar exposed Dutch colonial oppression. Gradually in the 1860s most of the compulsory labor programs were ended, but sugar and coffee systems were prolonged.

In 1870 the Dutch opened up land for private exploitation of Indonesian labor. The Dutch invaded and annexed Acheh in 1874, but a long war there lost 37,000 Dutch troops, 65,000 Achehese, and 400,000,000 guilders. Rebellions in Bali were suppressed in 1894, 1906, and 1908. Van Heutsz’s Short Declaration was used to bring three hundred self-governing states under Dutch rule by 1911. About 16,000 Europeans ruled over 37 million Indonesians. The Europeans had 60% of the taxable income, and the Chinese with 2% of the population had 20% of the income. The value of imports and exports multiplied, but wages declined. Central Java suffered a famine from 1900 to 1902, and the Dutch announced their Ethical Policy to remedy the situation by increasing education, irrigation, and emigration from crowded Java. Kartini dedicated her life to educating Javanese girls, but she died in 1904. Governor-General van Heutsz (1904-09) expanded education. A People’s Credit System began in 1904, and Java had 12,000 paddy banks by 1912.

Indonesian students formed Budi Utomo in 1908, and thousands joined. Muslims began Sarekat Islam (SI), and it grew quickly to 366,913 members by 1914. Both these groups supported the Dutch government. Douwes Dekker began the Indies Party in 1912 to work for national independence and racial equality, but it was declared illegal. Use of the Malay language spread, and between 1911 and 1917 Indonesia had 23 uprisings. In 1916 the Government started spying on and arresting radicals. In 1918 two million Indonesians died in the influenza pandemic, and a drought led to strikes. Dewantara was influenced by Theosophy and Tagore and started 166 schools. Governor-General Dirk Fock (1921-26) suppressed strikes and free expression with arrests and banishment. The SI allied with the Indian National Congress in 1922. By 1924 Communists were called PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia). PKI uprisings in 1926 resulted in 13,000 arrests and 4,500 imprisoned; some were shot, and nine were hanged. The Conference of Indonesian Youth in 1927 adopted Malay as the national language and changed its name to Indonesian, a word banned by the Dutch.

Sukarno formed the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI) to unite the nationalists, Muslims, and socialists, and they joined with other groups in the PPPKI and used consensus. In 1928 they demanded independence and called the capital Jakarta instead of Batavia. The Dutch imprisoned Sukarno and other PNI leaders in December 1929. In 1931 nearly half the workers were indentured. Sukarno was elected chairman of the Indonesian Party in 1932, but he was arrested again in 1933 and was in exile until 1942. Haji Rasul expanded Muhammadiyah in Minangkabau during the 1930s. The Dutch spent many times more on the military than on education and health care. Although most Indonesians were Muslims, in 1939 the Government gave Christian schools more than one million guilders but Muslim schools only 7,600 guilders.

After Germany invaded Holland in May 1940, the Dutch declared martial law in Indonesia and banned public meetings. Many organizations demanded independence, but the Colonial Minister Welter told them to wait until the war ended. In January 1942 the Japanese invaded Indonesia to get oil and defeated the Dutch. The Dutch refused to collaborate, and 170,000 Europeans were interned. Sukarno, Hatta, and Sjahrir collaborated in order to work for Indonesian independence. Sukarno advanced Japanese propaganda, and his speeches were censored. The Japanese exploited Indonesia for their war effort, and 270,000 peasants were sent to foreign labor camps. Famines in 1944 and 1945 caused more than two million deaths. Sukarno promoted the five principles that included Sun Yat-sen’s nationalism, socialism, and democracy along with humanitarianism and belief in God that he learned from Gandhi and Islam. Sukarno also advocated the Indonesian idea of mutual help. Sukarno led the Indonesian independence movement that the Japanese allowed in 1945.

Sukarno, Hatta, and other leaders proclaimed independence on August 17, 1945 and formed the Indonesian National Committee (KNI) and the KNIP as a parliament. Australians occupied eastern Indonesia in September, and the British started taking over Java. Sjahrir and Amir Sjarifuddin, who had resisted and was imprisoned by the Japanese, were elected leaders of KNIP in October. Muslims defended Indonesia in a holy war. In Surabaya the British Indian troops killed more than 6,000 Indonesians, and 8,000 died in Jakarta.

By January 1946 the Dutch had replaced the Australians, and they occupied Jakarta. The Republicans fled to Yogyakarta and implemented reforms. Tan Malaka advocated 100% independence and Marxist reforms, and he won over most of the KNIP. Sjahrir resigned but formed a coalition with Muslims to gain a majority, and Tan Malaka was arrested. Sjahrir negotiated with the Dutch and was detained by the army for compromising. Sukarno declared martial law, and his radio broadcast persuaded them to release Sjahrir. Many dissidents were imprisoned. The Allies turned over most of Indonesia to the Dutch, who recognized Republican authority in Java, Madura, and Sumatra in November and tried to form a federation. Their setting up rajas and sultans in states alienated Indonesians who wanted democracy. Sjahrir went to the United Nations, and Amir Sjarifuddin became prime minister in July. Dutch forces occupied West Java, Madura, all the good ports in Java, oil and coal regions, and plantations, and then they submitted to a United Nations call for a cease-fire in August.

An agreement between the Dutch and Indonesians in January 1948 led to Amir resigning and joining the leftists. Hatta led the cabinet for Sukarno, and they were supported by Sjahrir and the new Socialist party. Kartosuwirjo led Muslim guerrillas in West Java and in May proclaimed an Islamic state. The Dutch set up a federal assembly in July. Musso returned from the Soviet Union in August and with Amir took over the PKI, though they were opposed by pardoned Tan Malaka. The PKI took over Madiun and called for an uprising, but the Republican army defeated them by the end of the year, killing 8,000, arresting 35,000, and convincing Americans they were not Communists. In December the Dutch used force again to take over Yogyakarta, but Sukarno, Hatta, Sjahrir, and three other ministers won international public opinion by allowing themselves to be captured. The United States cut off aid to Dutch Indonesia, and the UN Security Council’s calls for a cease-fire were finally heeded.

The Americans threatened to withdraw the Marshall Plan from Holland, and the Dutch promised to accept the Republic and left Yogyakarta in June 1949. About 100,000 Indonesians were killed in their revolution, and seven million were displaced; but the Republic of the United States of Indonesia took over sovereignty from the Dutch on December 27, 1949. One by one the federal states dissolved themselves and formed the unitary Republic of Indonesia on August 17, 1950 that adopted the motto “Unity in diversity.”

Australia and New Zealand 1800-1950

Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands to 1800

The English began a penal colony at Sydney in 1788, and by 1801 ships had brought almost seven thousand prisoners. Aborigines had been living in Australia for thousands of years, gathering food; but European settlers fought a war against them, killing about 20,000, and new diseases wiped out most of them. English convicts were paid with rum and became farmers along with settlers. Irish convicts rebelled and were punished in 1804. Captain Bligh tried to ban alcohol and was deposed in 1808. Macquarie governed New South Wales effectively from 1810 to 1822. Commissioner Bigge made a study and advised moving the convicts out of the towns, a policy implemented by Governor Darling (1825-31). George Arthur (1824-36) governed Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and had seven levels of punishment. The British explored and claimed all of Australia. A shortage of women increased homosexuality and prostitution. Mrs. Chisholm helped hundreds of women find husbands and 11,000 immigrants find jobs. The minister John D. Lang advocated political reforms.

Maconochie experimented with humane treatment of prisoners on Norfolk Island and wrote books on penal reforms. Transportation of convicts to New South Wales ended in 1840 and to Tasmania in 1853. Squatters developed sheep farming despite a recession in the 1840s. After 1850 deviant women were put in a lunatic asylum instead of prison. The discovery of gold in 1851 led to much immigration that doubled the population in ten years and reduced the crime rate. Diggers protested the license fees and agitated for manhood suffrage. In 1855 striking stonemasons in Melbourne began demanding an eight-hour day. Chinese immigrants worked hard but were persecuted. Australia gained male suffrage in 1858. Land was made easier to purchase. Isolated on the land, some bush rangers turned to robbery. Factional politics caused provincial governments to change often. The province of Victoria led the trend by establishing free and compulsory public schools in 1872 and the eight-hour day in 1874. Marcus Clarke published his famous prison novel His Natural Life. Catherine Spence wrote novels and for newspapers. Rosa Praed, Ada Cambridge, and Tasma wrote novels about how men exploited women.

Australia cut back Chinese immigration in 1877. Graham Berry tried to implement liberal reforms. Technical improvements increased wheat and sugar production in the 1880s, and Australia was producing the most tin in the world. Railways increased, but provinces used different gauges. After a century only 67,000 Aborigines remained while the European population approached three million.

William Guthrie Spence organized shearers into a union in 1886, and strikes increased. Real estate speculation caused a boom and then a bust. Louisa Lawson advocated women’s rights in the periodical Dawn. The Australian Socialist League formed in Sydney in 1887, and the economic ideas of Henry George and Edward Bellamy spread. Brettena Smyth worked for woman’s suffrage and gave out information on birth control. Australian banks began to fail in 1891, and charities helped the homeless. Troops were sent in to control strikes, and labor candidates won elections. Spence formed the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) in 1894. A drought lasted eight years and wiped out half the sheep. The provinces passed many reforms to improve sanitation, safety, workers’ rights, and to tax land and incomes. Henry Parkes proposed the first federal conference in 1890, but the conservative constitution drafted the next year was rejected by New South Wales. Another convention in 1898 drafted a more liberal constitution, which was amended the next year and passed by every colony in 1900.

Three political parties developed, but all wanted a “white" Australia and restricted Asian immigration. Australia sent 16,175 volunteers to the Boer War, and 518 died. Women were given the vote in 1902, but non-whites were still restricted. Alfred Deakin was prime minister for the Protectionists with support from Labor. In 1907 the Arbitration Court set the minimum wage at what would support a family of five. Australia’s economy nearly doubled, and union membership more than tripled. The puritanical wowsers got laws passed, but the temperance movement could not outlaw liquor. In 1910 the Labor party won the election, but in 1912 a general strike by 20,000 workers in Brisbane was defeated. Franklin’s My Brilliant Career, Furphy’s Such Is Life, and Richardson’s trilogy The Fortunes of Richard Mahony were outstanding novels, and Henry Lawson’s short stories were popular.

During the Great War the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) suffered heavy casualties at Gallipoli in 1915. Leaders of the International Workers of the World (IWW) were imprisoned for opposing the war. In 1916 Australians were required to vote, and conscription lost. About 100,000 workers were on strike in 1917. In December another referendum on conscription lost; but during the war 331,781 volunteers went overseas, and 59,342 Australians were killed.

In the 1920s Australia borrowed money and financially assisted British immigrants. Labor won the election in October 1929, and during the Depression they tried to relieve the unemployed. The United Australia Party won the election in December 1931. Communists were persecuted, and foreigners were kept out of the country. In 1932 the Australian Broadcasting Commission began offering radio programs without commercials, but they were censored. Australian novels were popular, and the wowsers banned many books by famous authors. German, Italian, and especially Jewish refugees had to pay high landing fees.

Australia went to war against Germany on September 3, 1939 and had an army of 230,000 men by 1940. On December 9, 1941 Australia declared war on Japan. Prime Minister Curtin had two divisions returned from the Mideast and approved conscription. Australia had 15,384 troops captured at Singapore and 5,000 on Java. Americans were stationed in Australia, and the Allies pushed back the Japanese invaders in Melanesia. The Australian Labor Party did well in the 1943 election and implemented more social programs. The Government rationed food and controlled prices, wages, and rents. After the war veterans were given education or land. Labor retained a majority in the 1946 election and improved the welfare system, but doctors and the High Court blocked a national health service. Unions were strong and boycotted Dutch ships to support Indonesian independence. Immigration was still limited to Europeans. A housing crisis during the war led to a housing boom afterwards. The complex Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power project began in 1949. A coal miners’ strike for a 35-hour work week was defeated, and Labor lost the election to a coalition led by Menzies, who criticized socialism and bureaucracy.

About a thousand years ago the Maoris came to the islands that the Dutch later named New Zealand. A few missionaries from Australia began arriving in 1814. Chief Hongi visited London in 1820 and came back with 300 muskets that enabled him to defeat other tribes in civil wars that lasted until 1832. Wesleyan and Anglican missionaries arrived. The flax trade grew but was overtaken by timber and whaling. A few Europeans found protection by marrying Maori women, and some tribes were united in 1835. E. G. Wakefield promoted the sale of land to capitalist settlers. British consul Hobson made a treaty with fifty chiefs at Waitangi in 1840 that ceded sovereignty to the English and promised Maori rights; two years later New Zealand was a colony. George Grey learned Maori and governed liberally, promoting education, but his 1852 constitution favored European land-owners. Maoris wanted to be ruled by a king and resented the loss of their communal land to Europeans, who by 1858 outnumbered them. A Maori uprising began in 1860 and lasted until 1872. Superior British weapons enabled them to confiscate much rebel land. A gold rush started in 1860 that greatly increased settlement on the South Island.

In the early 1870s New Zealand borrowed money to build railways, roads, bridges, and telegraphs. The population was doubled in the 1870s by 100,000 subsidized immigrants, and the value of grain exports increased nine-fold. Maoris lost their communal land rights and fishing rights. In 1878 Te Whiti led the nonviolent resistance to the takeover of their land by plowing fields and erecting fences. Hundreds were arrested without warrants and detained without trials but were replaced by others until armed forces evicted 1,600 Maoris and destroyed their homes in November 1881. Europeans who married Maoris usually lived with the Maoris. After the borrowing, New Zealand suffered a depression in the 1880s and early 1890s. Women got the vote in 1893, and Seddon led the Liberal government until his death in 1906. Labor minister Reeves improved working conditions and established Conciliation Boards and an Arbitration Court that avoided strikes for twelve years. Seddon got a pension system passed in 1898. New Zealand began compulsory military training in 1909. William Massey opposed this and founded the Reform party.

Massey led a National Government during the Great War with Joseph Ward as Finance minister, and conscription was enacted in January 1916. Massey remained prime minister until his death in 1925, helping the farmers and home ownership. Ward got elected by promising more borrowing in 1928. New Zealand had the highest per capita external trade in the world and was hit hard by the Depression. The Government cut back social programs to balance the budget and let employers lower wages on their own. The unemployed rioted in city streets. Savage, Nash, and Fraser moderated Labour’s policies and won the election of 1935. They revived arbitration, implemented the forty-hour week, controlled dairy prices, loaned money, set minimum pay and decent living conditions for agricultural workers, and expanded education. In 1938 they introduced a social security system based on need and won the election again.

New Zealand supported the British war with exports and began conscription in July 1940. The Government combined Labour and National ministers and controlled prices, wages, and rents, subsidizing agriculture. After a mining strike the National caucus withdrew, though Coates and Hamilton left their party to stay in the War Cabinet. The war cost New Zealand about £600,000,000, and 11,625 soldiers were killed. After the war the minimum wage was set much lower for women than for men, but aid to children was made universal. The Labour government did not trust American capitalists and refused to join the World Bank and the IMF, but the Air Force was sent to support the Berlin airlift. The conservative National party won the election in 1949.

Evaluating South Asia 1800-1950

Evaluating India and Southeast Asia to 1800

The history of southern Asia in this century and a half was the era of European imperialism, and every Asian country was affected. Most nations suffered extensive exploitation by imperial powers that often conquered and governed their nations. The British dominated India, Ceylon, Burma, and Malaya; the French took over Indochina; and the Dutch exploited Indonesia. In the first half of the twentieth century all of these Asian societies developed liberation movements, and many achieved their independence shortly after World War II ended. Siam and to some extent Tibet and Nepal were the only Asian countries to maintain their independence from European domination in this colonial era. Australia and New Zealand are exceptions as non-Asian nations in the southwest Pacific with small native populations that were overwhelmed by British colonists. The British found little resistance in Australia and also took over New Zealand to establish their culture permanently there.

From the European perspective they were bringing a more advanced civilization to these regions of the world, and certainly they did spread western technology, education, and sometimes democratic institutions. Yet even the European democracies did not treat the Asians as equals but as colonies to be exploited. Especially in the case of India as well as Tibet, Nepal, and Ceylon, one can argue that their spiritual traditions are much more ancient than those of western Europe. These cultural clashes brought about a mutual interaction and eventually a synthesis of western materialism and eastern spirituality. In this way Asia was not just being changed by Europe but in some ways was stimulating changes in Europeans who became more familiar with Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Islam.

In December 1941 westernized Japanese imperialism aggressively conquered most of Southeast Asia, but their occupation lasted less than four years. This traumatic experience replaced the European colonial governments and in most cases prepared the way for the burgeoning independence movements to flourish as the Europeans found it difficult to reimpose their colonial regimes.

The British conquest of India was for the economic exploitation by the British East India Company, but it was accomplished by means of the powerful British military and administrative government. Operating from Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, the Company gradually extended its political domination and economic exploitation by taking control of one kingdom after another. Because the Mughals, Marathas, Rajputs, and Sikhs often fought each other, India had no national unity to withstand the British, who had eliminated their French and Dutch rivals. Governor-General Richard Wellesley (1798-1805) directed an imperialist war that was later recognized as illegal, and by 1818 most of the Maratha kingdoms had been conquered. The Indians were divided and did not yet have the modern institutions that could stand up to British militarism. Ranjit Singh delayed the conquest of the Sikhs by forming a confederation, but they too succumbed in the 1840s. Efforts by Rammohun Roy and other reformers gradually developed modern education for Indians, women’s rights, and eventually national identity. On the frontiers of the empire the British took territory from Burma but found occupying Afghanistan a futile task.

The English instituted some reforms and brought western culture, but their making Indian sepoys fight wars in Burma and Afghanistan was resented. Governor-General Dalhousie (1848-56) continued the conquests. His annexations of various kingdoms, the Punjab, and Awadh on top of the impoverishment of Indians by mercantilism along with fears of religious domination erupted in a desperate mutiny and revolt in 1857. Yet the violence and criminal behavior of the rebels did not win over enough people to be victorious, and the British government took over from the Company and reimposed their domination with some reforms based on the lessons learned. India was opened to private exploitation, and the European settlers had more racist attitudes after the mutiny. The extreme poverty of an oppressed society suffered some devastating famines that often were not prevented or alleviated as well as they might have been. The aggressive forward policy of the British in Afghanistan once again produced a poor result in the Second Afghan War (1878-81).

Ahmad Khan pioneered the modern Muslim education needed in India while Hindus led by Keshab Sen and others in Brahmo Samaj worked for social reforms and more universal religious ideas. The novelist Bankim gave nationalism a boost, and intellectuals such as Ranade worked for spiritual values. Ramakrishna revived the ancient mystical tradition of Hinduism, and his disciple Vivekananda carried the spiritual message to the world as well as India. Blavatsky, Olcott, Besant, and Leadbeater were drawn to India from other countries to spread the teachings of Theosophy that attempted to integrate religion and science from a spiritual perspective. They revealed a science that transcends the physical world and worked for the ideals of brotherhood and ecumenical tolerance through education.

Indians began developing a political movement when they founded the Indian National Congress in 1885. Ahmad Khan started a parallel Islamic organization, but the British often used the conflict between Hindus and Muslims to weaken Indian resistance to their rule. Gokhale worked for social improvements and self-government, and Tilak agitated in the press and first suggested civil disobedience as a method for gaining independence. Young Aurobindo gained a good education in England, but he became a radical nationalist in India. Viceroy Curzon stimulated the beginning of a revolution by partitioning Bengal in 1905.

While Hindus met and organized a boycott of British cloth and other protests, Viceroy Minto favored the Muslims, causing riots in 1907. Aurobindo wrote about passive resistance, and some planned violent tactics, which only increased repression. The British prosecuted the “terrorists,” but they also restricted freedom of expression. Tilak went to prison for six years because of his writings, and his willingness to sacrifice inspired others. Gandhi was developing his nonviolent methods in South Africa, and he published Hind Swaraj in 1909 as a manifesto for Indian independence. The Muslim League joined the Indian Congress in calling for self-government. Indians supported the British in the Great War, and many believed that they deserved home rule within the empire, especially because the League of Nations was supposed to promote self-determination. Aurobindo wrote about this and laid out his spiritual vision of an ideal society that combines individual freedom with socialism and world federation united by a religion of love. The poet Tagore also inspired people with his writing, songs, and educational efforts.

Gandhi led by his example as he used truthfulness and nonviolent methods to improve people’s lives and bring about political reforms. When the British passed repressive legislation, he led a nonviolent campaign in 1919. Although the violence on the British side was much more horrendous, Gandhi still disciplined his movement by canceling the campaign. He did so again in 1922 despite protests by Jawaharlal Nehru and others. Yet the British sentenced Gandhi to six years. Gandhi was using active methods to expose the injustice of the British system. Congress entered the political process and worked for reforms, but Hindu-Muslim conflicts caused communal riots. When the British did not grant independence by the end of 1929, Congress through Nehru and Gandhi declared independence and announced their program. Gandhi began another non-cooperation campaign with the famous salt march that protested this British monopoly. When independence was not forthcoming because of British intransigence, Gandhi turned his efforts toward helping the Harijans (untouchables) gain equal rights. Muslims led by Iqbal and Jinnah began asking for a separate nation, Pakistan. Congress ended civil disobedience and cooperated with Jinnah while in 1935 the British granted some more local autonomy. Gandhi and Congress refused to cooperate with the violence of another war, but the Muslim League supported the British in World War II. The “Quit India” campaign led to much sabotage and failed to stop the war or gain independence.

After World War II the British began negotiating more seriously with the Indian Congress and the Muslim League, which demanded six provinces for Pakistan. Viceroy Mountbatten mediated the partition of India with Nehru and Jinnah that established the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947. This was followed by massive communal violence between Hindus and Muslims as populations migrated across the new borders. Yet these two great nations had become self-governing within the British commonwealth by using primarily nonviolent methods over a long period while Japan and China engaged in massive violence. Gandhi’s fasting calmed some of the disturbances, but Kashmir remained a place of conflict. India and Pakistan, the two largest nations of southern Asia, had become independent democracies.

In my view Gandhi and the Congress movement showed the world that people can win their freedom by acting nonviolently and persistently for their rights. Anyone who has studied the brutality and repression as well as the exploitation of the British empire in India would not agree with the argument that this could only be accomplished because the “civilized” British were the opponents. Violence escalates conflict and makes the opponent more violent; but nonviolence reduces the likelihood of a violent response because it is not needed. Ultimately nonviolence only works when the cause is just. People eventually realize that they should do what is right. Active nonviolence accelerates that learning process by compelling the opponents to make decisions that are just or unjust until they stop making unjust decisions.

 Tibet continued to be the only major nation in which the political leader was also the spiritual leader; but in the 19th century the Dalai Lamas exercised little power as they were usually too young. Their Buddhist society continued with a few incursions from China, Nepal, and the British. The 13th Dalai Lama exercised leadership 1895-1933 despite being exiled during a Chinese invasion. After returning in 1912, he implemented reforms and maintained an alliance with the British. Before he died, he warned about the threat of the Chinese Communists. Tibet remained peaceful during World War II, but the Chinese did invade in 1950.

Nepal accepted the British as an ally in 1817, and Prime Minister Jang Bahadur helped them during the Indian mutiny in 1858. His Rana family struggled for power but continued its alliance with the British. Many Gurkhas served in the imperial army in India and in the world wars, but Nepal itself remained a fairly peaceful Hindu kingdom.

The British made Sri Lanka their colony of Ceylon in 1802. They exploited its monopolies, and administrative reforms were implemented in 1833. The Ceylon National Congress began in 1919, and social reform movements accelerated. All women could vote by 1931, and some constitutional reforms were made in 1939. After prospering during World War II, Ceylon peacefully became independent as Sri Lanka in 1948.

Buddhist Burma had a small empire, often attacking the Mons and Siam; but they lost territory to British imperialism in 1826 and 1852. King Mindon Min (r. 1853-78) made peace and ruled better than most; but a revolt in his family caused him not to choose a successor. King Thibaw killed many relatives and allowed corruption. The British invaded in 1885 and annexed the remainder of Burma to their Indian empire. Burmans resisted the occupation for several years. Gradually in the 20th century they developed organizations such as the YMBA to work for self-government. University students became active, and in 1924 the GCBA voted to stop paying taxes. Burma exported much rice, and this declined during the Depression. A violent revolt failed as usual, but a larger movement was led by Aung San and others who were allied with India’s Congress party. The British separated Burma from the Indian empire in 1937 with a constitution but still maintained control. Radicals combined together in a Freedom Bloc to demand a constituent assembly. After the Japanese drove out the British, they promised Burma independence but exploited them. Aung San led a resistance movement that helped the British defeat the Japanese. He also led the independence movement that won elections and told the British to withdraw. After Aung San and other leaders were assassinated, the British recognized Burma’s independence in October 1947, but Burma faced a revolt by Communists and the Karens.

The British made Singapore their port in 1819, and five years later they established their control over Malaya while recognizing the Dutch on many islands. Most Malayans were rice farmers, but immigrant Chinese and Indians worked in tin mines and rubber plantations. Siam gave up territory in Malaya to the British to correct their unequal treaty. European capitalists with advanced technology took over the tin mines from the Chinese, and in the 1930s the Japanese had already begun to exploit Malayan iron. The Japanese invaded and occupied Malaya. After the war the British returned and set up the Federation of Malaya in 1948; but the Malay states remained protectorates of the United Kingdom, and the Communist party was outlawed.

Siam was governed by a series of kings after Chakri established a dynasty as Rama I. They were influenced by the English and fought with the French over Cambodia and Laos. Despite the unequal treaties they made with Europeans, Siam’s royal family practiced nepotism but maintained its independence. During the Depression the People’s Party led by Pridi brought about a nonviolent revolution by getting King Prajadhipok to accept a constitution. Phibun gained control of the army and formed an alliance with Japan. The leftist government provided more public services but also censored the press and radio. The new government promoted Thai nationalism and changed the name of the country to Thailand in 1939. Japan helped them regain territory from Cambodia and the French in 1941. Phibun’s government supported the Japanese, but after World War II Pridi became prime minister and gave Siam a new constitution. However, the military and Phibun took power again in November 1947. Thailand supported UN forces in the Korean War.

Cambodia and Laos had troubled histories in the 19th century because they were caught between Siam and French Vietnam. Cambodia’s King Norodom capitulated and accepted opium from the French, as did his successor Sisowath. Cambodia and Laos suffered under French imperialism as part of French Indochina. They were under the Vichy regime during World War II until March 1945, when the Japanese disarmed the French; but French control returned to Cambodia in September. King Sihanouk signed a treaty with France, and Cambodia began getting aid from the United States in 1950. Phetxarat led an independence movement in northern Laos in 1945, but the French defeated the Lao Issara in March 1946, and once again Laos became a part of the Indochinese Federation in the French Union.

Emperor Gia Long reunited Vietnam in 1801, and his son Minh Mang rejected European trade and applied Confucianism. Tu Duc was also a Confucian, but he too increased conflict with the French by persecuting Christians. Military superiority enabled the French colonists to conquer portions of Vietnam. Even an alliance with China could not stop French imperialism, but many Vietnamese continued to fight for several years after the French took over the kingdom in 1885. Governor-General Paul Doumer (1896-1902) sacrificed the lives of Vietnamese and Chinese to build railways. The French collected heavy taxes but provided little education or health care.

The intellectuals Phan Boi Chau and Phan Chu Trinh led the revolutionary movement that began suffering harsh punishments in 1907. A few French became wealthy while Vietnamese peasants lost their land and suffered poverty. Some French governors were more liberal and allowed the revolutionary movement to develop with less repression, but the exploitation continued. Ho Chih Minh studied in Paris and Moscow and developed the Communist party to fight against the foreign capitalism that oppressed them. The French began using planes to bomb civilians as early as 1931. Religious movements also sprang up in Vietnam, but they did not have the comprehensive programs for social and political reform of the socialists or Communists.

After France fell to the Nazis in 1940, the Japanese invaded Vietnam and let the French allied with the Vichy regime govern. Ho Chih Minh and Giap led the Viet Minh resistance to the Japanese, and they declared independence in September 1945. The British occupied the south and turned it over to the French while the Chinese occupied the north. The Viet Minh won elections in the north, and they made an agreement with the returning French in 1946. By the end of the year the French began fighting a colonial war against the Viet Minh who wanted independence. In 1950 the United States began aiding the French in what would be a very long war in Vietnam.

The Netherlands East Indies in the early 19th century had a few years when Java was governed by Daendels and Raffles, who brought reforms, but in 1825-30 the Dutch crushed the rebellion on Java, killing 200,000. They used so many export crops to exploit high profits from the farmers that famines occurred in the 1840s. They supplied Europeans with their newly acquired addictions to sugar and coffee. Their imperial war to control Acheh began in 1874 and cost more than a hundred thousand lives. In the early 20th century the Europeans were 0.5% of the population but garnered 60% of the income. The Chinese who were 2% also used the capitalist system to gain 20% of the wealth, leaving Indonesians who were 97% with only 20% of the income. The famine of 1900-02 caused criticism, and the Dutch announced their Ethical Policy to relieve crowded Java with education, irrigation, and emigration.

Students, Muslims, and others began forming social movements in 1908 to work for equality and national independence. The Dutch government suppressed the revolutionary efforts with executions and imprisonment. Sukarno tried to unite the nationalists, Muslims, and socialists in a political party, but he was sent into exile for nine years. The Dutch government spent much more on its military than it did on education and health care, and almost all its spending on education went to a tiny Christian minority in the Muslim country.

After Germany invaded Holland in May 1940, the Dutch in Indonesia declared martial law and banned meetings. After the Japanese invasion in January 1942 the Dutch were interned, and Indonesian leaders collaborated. Indonesians were ruthlessly exploited and suffered a terrible famine. Sukarno and others declared Indonesian independence in August 1945.  Some clashed with British troops, who helped the Dutch regain control. The Dutch tried to form a federation of states and imprisoned dissidents while the Republicans moved their government to Yogyakarta. Indonesians struggled for democracy and fought the Dutch, and the Republican army defeated the more radical Communists in 1948. After two “police actions” in July 1947 and December 1948, the Dutch submitted to pressure from the United Nations and the United States and recognized the United States of Indonesia at the end of 1949. The federal states dissolved, and the unitary Republic of Indonesia began in August 1950 with Sukarno as president.

War and diseases wiped out most of the Aborigines in large Australia, which the British used as a penal colony in the first half of the 18th century. Maconochie experimented with methods of rehabilitation, but others reverted to punishment. Australia lacked women, and a lunatic asylum replaced the women’s prison. The gold rush that began in 1851 stimulated immigration from England and China, lowering the high crime rate. Australians organized unions and demanded the eight-hour day and male suffrage in the 1850s. Education developed, and by the 1870s public schools were free for everyone. Australia began excluding Chinese immigration in 1877, and in the 20th century all the parties aimed to keep Australia white. The provinces were democratic and adopted many social reforms to benefit workers. A liberal constitution was passed in 1900, and Australia became a united commonwealth in the British empire. Volunteers fought in the Boer War, and 59,342 Australians were killed in the First World War. In the 1920s British immigration was subsidized, and Asians were still excluded. In the 1930s Communists were persecuted, and Jewish refugees had to pay very high landing fees. Australia supported the United States in the war against Japan while the Labor party improved social welfare during and after the war.

The Maoris adapted to the European invasion of New Zealand. Some tribes united and thought they had a treaty with the English in 1840, but misunderstanding and British imperialism eventually left it behind. A Maori uprising began in 1860 but was crushed by 1872. Although their lands were taken away, some used nonviolent methods to try to maintain them. New Zealand borrowed money for modernization, but this was followed by a depression in the 1880s. Women won the vote in 1893, and the Liberals governed for fifteen years, enacting many reforms to help workers and the poor. Increasing home ownership helped New Zealand develop a large middle class, but decreased exports caused much unemployment in the early 1930s. The Labour party was elected in 1935 and enacted a series of reforms that made New Zealand one of the most progressive nations in the world with a high standard of living. New Zealand also had a Labour party in power that controlled the economy during World War II.

What can we learn from this history of a colonial era? How could those involved have acted in better ways? Certainly the Europeans could have acted more humanely and with more sensitivity to the culture of the people by visiting their homelands without invading them by force. Their governments could have had more respect for local customs and not act with violence to support the greed and ambitions of their nationals in these foreign lands. By the 19th century the western Europeans had constitutional traditions of their own, and with compassion they could have respected the rights of the Asians and their ways out of a sense of equality and friendship. Surely some did, but many did not.

The Asians also learned many lessons from having to withstand this cultural onslaught. They adapted to advances in technology and new social and economic institutions. Many welcomed the westerners, but some were turned to hostile responses, often out of self-protection. As Asians gained more education, they learned how to organize themselves to struggle for their rights and independence; but this process took many decades. After suffering from colonial wars, they were often drawn into the Great War in Europe. Many Asians had been impressed by the advances made in Japan and particularly their military victory over Russia in 1905, but the modernization of Japan into an imperial threat had dangerous consequences in 1941-45. Yet this violent interlude provided the opportunity for many nations in Southeast Asia to assert their independence from the European imperialists.

The development of the spiritual methods of nonviolent action by Gandhi on a massive scale in India taught many that Asians could struggle for their rights without having to adopt western militarism. I believe that history shows that those who use nonviolent but active methods for social and political reforms produce better and more sustainable consequences than those who resort to violence. Perhaps this is the greatest lesson for Asia and the world.

Copyright © 2007 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book SOUTH ASIA 1800-1950.
For ordering information, please click here.


British India 1800-1848
British India's Wars 1848-1881
India's Renaissance 1881-1905
India's Freedom Struggle 1905-1918
Gandhi and India 1919-1933
Liberating India and Pakistan 1934-1950
Tibet, Nepal, and Ceylon 1800-1950
Burma, Malaya and the British 1800-1950
Siam, Cambodia, and Laos 1800-1950
Vietnam and the French 1800-1950
Indonesia and the Dutch 1800-1950
Australia to 1950
New Zealand to 1950
Summary and Evaluation


World Chronological Index
Chronology of Asia & Africa to 1800
Chronology of Asia & Africa 1800-1950
Chronology of South Asia to 1950

BECK index