[Documents menu] Documents menu

Message-Id: <199711190450.XAA54910@h-net.msu.edu>
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 1997 20:47:05 +0000
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@h-net.msu.edu>
From: Marilyn Levine, H-Asia <mlevine@lcsc.edu>
Subject: H-Asia: Sources on early Southeast Asian history
To: Multiple recipients of list H-ASIA <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU>

From: Shawn McHale <mchale@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu>

Sources on early Southeast Asian history

By Shawn McHale, 18 November 1997

Here are some suggested readings on the topic, but I'd say that there is not really a good up-to-date survey text for early Southeast Asia as a whole.

The __Cambridge History of Southeast Asia__ (1992) has one volume devoted to the premodern period. It is quite up to date in approaches.

Robert Heine-Geldern,__Conceptions of State and Kingship in Southeast Asia__ (1942?) is the classic starting point for a discussion of this topic. the author focused on Indic influences on SE Asian kingship. this view has been challenged more recently by a variety of scholars. Hermann Kulke, __The Devaraja Cult__, for example, explores the concept of devaraja, traditionally understood to mean god king, and revises the notion for Cambodia that the Cambodian ruler was a god king.

Other scholars who have contributed to the debate over the notion of traditional kingship include Stanley Tambiah with his notion of traditional Siamese government as a galactic polity; see his early chapters in __World Conqueror and World Renouncer__ (1976). Clifford Geertz has written of traditional Balinese rulership in terms of the theater state. (Geertz, __The Theater State in Nineteenth Century Bali__ (1980). this is hardly premodern history, but the concepts used by Geertz and Tambiah have been influential. . . . Ian Mabbett has actually written on the earlier period (for example, a great article on Cambodian kingship), and Oliver Wolters has written on Cambodia as well (not his area of primary expertise), but I have lost references to the articles. I think both were published in the __Journal of Southeast Asian Studies__ in the late 1970s.

One book that probably should be looked at is David G. Marr and A.C. Milner, eds., __Southeast Asia in the Ninth to Fourteenth Centuries__ (1986). Some of the most interesting scholars of the period contributed to this volume.

The Chinese, of course, wrote some on Southeast Asia: see Chou Ta-kuan, __Memoires sur les coutumes de Cambodge. . . __ (1896)

Finally, two other recommendations. One cannot really avoid the one textbook that treats this period: D. G. E. Hall's history of Southeast Asia. It contains a mind-numbing accretion of facts with little analytic narrative, but it is the one source to cover all of SEA in the pre-modern era. Finally, the works of Georges Coedes like __The Indianized States of Southeast Asia__ are essential reading. they are dated in parts: the one above was first published in French in 1942, I believe, but it has been quite influential.

As you will see, I have sometimes given quite specialized treatises. Pre-modern Southeast Asian history simply does not have enough written on it, so you may have to work through some of these particular accounts. For further help, you might want to talk to people like Michael Aung-thwin (University of Hawaii) or David Wyatt (Cornell), among others, since they do research on pre-modern SE Asian history (unlike me, who is simply fascinated by the topic!)

Shawn McHale
Asst. Professor of History and International Relations
The George Washington University