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Regal ministers of eclipsed empires in India
Priya Naik

This chapter looks at the roles, lives and ambitions of the ministers of the princely states of the South Asian subcontinent. Highly educated, sharp and very well remunerated, the Indian dewans, as these ministers were called, formed a part of the political elite during British colonialism. Many were knighted, and they played a crucial role in governance, negotiating local pressures within the princely states while demonstrating administrative efficiency to the British. By the end of the First World War, with the growing participation of the Indian princes in the British Empire, the ministers’ role and responsibilities expanded to include representing the Indian princes at international forums, such as the League of Nations, the Imperial Conferences and the Round Table Conferences. The chapter looks at the many roles these men played, from representing their people, the princes and finally, the British Empire, as well as the tensions between these demands.

in Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia
Sarawak and the Brooke dynasty’s centenary of 1941
Donna Brunero

This chapter investigates the representations of Sarawak under its White Rajas as a model of imperial benevolence, and examines how the ideals of the Brooke raj were conveyed through the centenary festivities which were held in September 1941. Following a brief overview of the history of Sarawak, of Brooke rule and the place of rituals in empire, the chapter explores the events of the centenary week, the popular culture expressed at bazaars and competitions, parades, performances and speeches, and analyses how each reveals the crafting of Brooke rule. It also examines the fundamental changes afoot as a new constitution granting greater self-government was introduced during the centenary celebrations. The chapter demonstrates that by studying how the centenary was celebrated, we gain insights into a territory at the edge of Britain’s formal empire as well as the Brooke dynasty’s self-fashioning of rule in Sarawak.

in Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia
Bao Dai, Norodom Sihanouk and Mohammed V
Christopher Goscha

In 1945, when the French scrambled to rebuild their empire shaken by the Second World War, only the Vietnamese emperor Bao Dai appeared to challenge colonial rule in Indochina. Sihanouk and Mohammed V appeared to be the docile ones in Cambodia and Morocco. All of that changed within a decade as Bao Dai threw in his lot with the French, while Sihanouk and Mohammed V led independence crusades against their colonial kingmakers. This chapter uses a comparative framework to explain why two colonially crowned monarchs in the French empire – Norodom Sihanouk in Cambodia and Mohammed V in Morocco – survived decolonisation to become the fathers of independent nations while Bao Dai in Vietnam did not. Four main factors help explain these two different outcomes: the nature of French colonial monarchy in each protectorate; the specific local, national and international circumstances; the individual personalities of each sovereign; and the strategies they employed.

in Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia
Negotiations at the end of British rule in the Shan States of Burma (Myanmar)
Susan Conway

After her victory in the 2015 elections, Aung San Suu Kyi announced a plan of reconciliation after decades of ethnic conflict in Myanmar. In 1947 her father had attempted a similar plan, culminating in the Panglong Agreement signed in London with Clement Attlee and the Panglong Conference held in the town of that name in the Shan States. This chapter examines the historical and cultural background to these negotiations from the point of view of the minority Shan people and their rulers. It reveals how the Shan reacted to the tensions and conflicts that surrounded the signing and why they felt that the British failed them.

in Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia
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Rajas, maharajas and others in post-colonial India
Jim Masselos

The chapter follows the ruling princes of India, the maharajas, rajas, ranas and others, from the partition of British India and the establishment of the successor nations of India and Pakistan in August 1947. It tracks Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Patel’s integration of the princely states into India, and the problems posed by the former princely state of Kashmir. In 1971, Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party won a landslide victory in general elections in India. The size of her majority enabled her to abolish the princes’ regal privileges and slash their privy purses. The ex-rulers attempted to cope with their difficult financial situation by, among other measures, converting assets such as their palaces into luxury hotels, or by promoting new industries in their former territories. Other ex-princes entered public life from different directions and some stood for election to parliament – with varied success. The chapter concludes with a look at popular attitudes to the ex-princes using their depiction on a logo developed by Air India for its posters and calendars. Its maharaja was presented as having a likeable and humorous persona – and witty.

in Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia
Yogyakarta during the Indonesian decolonisation, 1942–50
Bayu Dardias Kurniadi

The Sultan of Yogyakarta is the only royal figure in Indonesia who now retains an official government position, both as head of his sultanate and as hereditary governor of the province of Yogyakarta. This chapter explains how Sultan Hamengku Buwono IX (1912–88) was able to safeguard and strengthen that position through his support for Indonesian republicans in the struggle for independence against the Dutch in the 1940s, his negotiations with the new government to secure recognition of Yogyakarta as a ‘Special Region’ of the country, his own charisma and administrative abilities, as well as astute actions in favour of his subjects during this period. The contrasting case of Surakarta, where the sultanate survived for only a short time beyond independence, is also considered.

in Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia
Thai post-colonial perspectives on kingship
Irene Stengs

In Thailand, an exalted veneration for the monarchy generates a continuous production of royalist and nationalistically inclined popular culture. One strand within this royalist nationalism evolves around the patriotic quality of ‘being Thai’ or ‘Thainess’, a combination of being united as a people in love with the monarchy while remaining proud of the nation’s everlasting independence. This narrative emphasises the bravery and wisdom of the old Siamese kings in fighting their arch-enemy, the Burmese, and their successes in maintaining the kingdom’s independence throughout its entire existence, including the period of Western high imperialism and aggression towards Siam. This particular historiography originated during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (r. 1865–1910), which paradoxically involved a grand scheme of internal colonisation by the absolute monarchy. Although scholarly work has thoroughly deconstructed the royalist account of the Siamese experiences with colonialism, this post-colonial perspective still exerts a strong impact on the cultural politics of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, inspiring a continuous production of monuments, novels, movies and television soap operas. Focusing on statues and monuments as material mediators in the domains of popular religiosity, nationalism and entertainment, this chapter explores the present-day popularity of Siamese royal historiography.

in Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia
Decolonisationand the Japanese emperor after 1945
Elise K. Tipton

Defeat in 1945 brought the end of the Japanese empire and occupation by foreign powers for the first time in Japanese history. As the American-dominated Occupation introduced radical reforms of democratisation in politics and society, debates among the Allies and Japanese raged over the fate and future of both the person of Hirohito and the institution of the emperor. The new constitution in 1946 transformed the emperor from an absolute monarch to a symbol emperor. This was widely supported in the decade after the Occupation ended in 1952. However, because Hirohito remained on the throne until his death in 1989, the issue of his war responsibility did not disappear at home or abroad. The Japanese left remained vigilant against revival of the ‘emperor system’ (tennôsei) while the far right criticised media treatment of the imperial family as ‘celebrity stars’. Conservative Liberal Democratic Party governments kept the monarchy important in Japanese culture and society, ignoring Emperors Akihito and Naruhito’s expressions of ‘remorse’ for the war while endeavouring to carry out their constitutional role as ‘symbol of the state’.

in Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia
Robert Aldrich

In the mountain kingdoms and other polities of the Himalayan region, colonial Britain pushed forward the frontiers of its Indian empire, played the ‘Great Game’ against Russia and jousted with China for trade opportunities and political influence. Through the 1800s and early 1900s, Britain imposed a protectorate over Sikkim, exercised considerable sway in independent Nepal, promoted the establishment of a unified Bhutan and sought to gain access to Tibet. Confrontations and negotiations with local monarchs were key to Britain’s efforts. When Britain ‘quit’ India, the destinies of the states where Britain had gained a sphere of influence, and the fate of their sovereigns, hung in the balance. This chapter charts the varying trajectories of the monarchs of Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim (and of the Dalai Lama in Tibet) during the late colonial period, and argues that the fates of the dynasties, at that time, and during and after decolonisation, was closely bound up with British imperialist action and its legacy.

in Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia
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Sultans and the state
Jean Gelman Taylor

Decolonisation in Indonesia was a repudiation of two pasts, indigenous and foreign. Nationalists rejected Dutch governance where political power was lodged in the Netherlands. They also rejected the pre-colonial pattern of myriad principalities headed by hereditary families. In its first years, Indonesia dissolved the three hundred or so principalities that had coexisted within the colonial state, allowing only two sultanates to survive. The framers of Indonesia's first and subsequent constitutions did not resolve the question of whether government should inherit the historic role of the archipelago’s sultans as enforcers of Islamic law, or leave religious observance to each Muslim’s conscience. Today, some descendants of royal families have resumed the use of the title of sultan. The central government understands them as symbols of the diverse ethnic cultures within the nation-state, but it has crushed separatist movements, whether based on ethnic particularity or Islam. It has also banned organisations, such as Jemaah Islamiyah and Hizbut Tahrir, that champion universal Islamic government under a caliph. The Republic of Indonesia stands for a nation-state whose borders are those of the Netherlands East Indies. The chapter argues that the legacy of colonialism is one state, not many.

in Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia