World Turned Upside Down: Southeast Asia in the Aftermath of Japanese Defeat

Module Summary

The period following Japanese defeat by the Allied forces was a time of tumultuous change in Southeast Asia, primarily because it effectively spelled the end of Western domination. This module provides an overview of the aftermath of Japanese defeat and the long, and often violent, process of decolonization and independence, especially in relation to new global alignments in the Cold War. It will also examine the far-reaching effects of the Japanese occupation on ethnic relations in the region, with a close look at what is now Singapore and Malaysia.

This module is based on the presentation by Cheah Boon Kheng (Visiting Professor, Department of History, National University of Singapore) 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 optional reading for this module are:
John Smail, Bandung in the early revolution, 1945-1946; a study in the social history of the Indonesian revolution,Ithaca, N.Y: Modern Indonesia Project. 1964.
Alfred W. McCoy [ed.], Southeast Asia under Japanese occupation, New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, 1980. Read “Introduction.”
David G. Marr, Vietnam 1945: the quest for power, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. Read “Epilogue.”

Teaching Materials

PowerPoint lecture “World Turned Upside Down” part one and part two
Course reading (John Smail, Bandung in the Early Revolution)

Key topics include: communism, decolonization, democracy, European powers, fascism, French Indochina, imperialism / colonialism, independence movements, Mainland Southeast Asia/Island Southeast Asia, Malaya/British Malaya, nationalism, post-war period, revolution, Spanish rule/American rule, spice islands, warfare and combat, 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.