Monarchies and decolonisation in Asia

In the 1940s, the British king, the Dutch queen and the Japanese emperor reigned over colonial possessions in Asia, whose ‘protected’ indigenous monarchs included Indian and Himalayan maharajas, Shan princes in Burma, and sultans in the Malay states and the Dutch East Indies, as well as the Vietnamese emperor and the Cambodian and Lao king in the French republican empire, and the ‘white raja’ of Sarawak. Decolonisation posed the question about the form of government to be adopted in successor states to the colonial empires and about the fate of local dynasties. As their possessions gained independence, the European and Japanese monarchies also had to adapt to a post-imperial world. This collection of original essays by an international group of distinguished historians argues that the institution of monarchy, and individual monarchs, occupied key roles in the process of decolonisation. It analyses the role of monarchy (both foreign and indigenous) in the late colonial period and with decolonisation. It examines the post-colonial fate of thrones buffeted and sometimes destroyed by republicanism and radicalism. It assesses the ways that surviving dynasties and the descendants of abolished dynasties have adapted to new social and political orders, and it considers the legacies left by extant and defunct dynasties in contemporary Asia.

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