Europe between the Wars and Its Effect on Southeast Asia

Module Summary

This module discusses the dramatic changes occurring in Europe between the two World Wars. It can be important to discuss this aspect of European history in order to understand the changes in the relationship between the European colonial powers and the colonized states in Southeast Asia. WWI and the peacemaking agreements established at Versailles produced mass disillusionment in Europe. The Great Depression (1929-35) compounded problems in the colonizer countries of France, Britain, and the Netherlands. Economic trouble at home meant that many in Europe grew weary of political entanglements outside the region, and this included colonial affairs. The Great Depression also had deep effects on the colonized states in Southeast Asia. Similar economic policies had slowly transformed the Dutch East Indies, British Malaya, and French Indochina into economies dependent on the export of one or two commodities. Commodity prices plummeted during the Depression and Southeast Asian economies were deeply effected, this especially being the case for regions dependent on the export of rubber.

This module is based on the presentation by Pierre Asselin (Associate Professor of History, Hawaii Pacific University) for the East-West Center’s 2011 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute for Teachers.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this module do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the East-West Center.

Optional Reading

The two optional reading for this module are for Europe: V.G. Kiernan, European Empires from Conquest to Collapse, 1815-1960 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982), Chapter 13 “Challenge and Response: 1919-1945.” And for an in depth review of each Southeast Asian country during this period consider: Chandler et al., Emergence of modern Southeast Asia: A new history (Honolulu: UH Press, 2005), Chapters 19-26.

Teaching Materials

PowerPoint lecture “Europe between the Wars: Economic trouble, the rise of Fascism and its impact on Colonial Rule”

Key topics include: capitalism, communism, Confucianism, Decolonization, democracy, development, Dutch East Indies/Netherlands Indies, European powers, fascism, French Indochina, globalization, imperialism / colonialism, independence movements, Malaya/British Malaya, nationalism, post-war period, revolution, trade and the economy, WWII in Southeast Asia.

We welcome comments from teachers on how you have integrated this material into your teaching, including what was useful and what wasn’t, and what additional resources you would like to see in or recommend for this module.