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The Malayan Emergency
Revolution and Counterinsurgency at the End of Empire

Part of Cambridge Military Histories

  • Author: Karl Hack, The Open University, Milton Keynes
  • Date Published: December 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107439481


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About the Authors
  • The Malayan Emergency of 1948–1960 has been scrutinised for 'lessons' about how to win counterinsurgencies from the Vietnam War to twenty-first century Afghanistan. This book brings our understanding of the conflict up to date by interweaving government and insurgent accounts and looking at how they played out at local level. Drawing on oral history, recent memoirs and declassified archival material from the UK and Asia, Karl Hack offers a comprehensive, multi-perspective account of the Malayan Emergency and its impact on Malaysia. He sheds new light on questions about terror and violence against civilians, how insurgency and decolonisation interacted and how revolution was defeated. He considers how government policies such as pressurising villagers, resettlement and winning 'hearts and minds' can be judged from the perspective of insurgents and civilians. This timely book is the first truly multi-perspective and in-depth study of anti-colonial resistance and counterinsurgency in the Malayan Emergency.

    • Draws on recently declassified material from the UK Public Record Office and Malaysian archival materials as well as oral history interviews
    • Provides comprehensive coverage of the Malayan Emergency
    • Essential reading for those interested in the Malayan Emergency, Malaysian history, general insurgency, and counterinsurgency, and violent decolonisation. Especially students, academics and military practitioners
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Karl Hack has provided a timely, nuanced and balanced re-assessment of the evolving British counterinsurgency campaign in Malaya and its 'lessons' for current counter-insurgency practitioners and academic historians alike. Highly recommended.' Kumar Ramakrishna, Nanyang Technological University

    'This is a book we have long needed. The half of the Malayan population of the 1940s that was more-or-less anti-imperialist, anti-sultan, and sympathetic to communism and its Chinese variant was not only defeated militarily in the 1950s, but demonised and exoticised by the governments that followed. By suppressing its voices and developing alternative anti-imperial stories with little historical basis, Malaysian history has been seriously distorted. Karl Hack has seized this moment to tell for the first time a balanced history of the struggle of the 1950s. It deserves a wide readership, particularly among young Malaysians eager to reclaim a multi-vocal and inclusive past.' Anthony Reid, Australian National University

    'The Malayan Emergency remains central to the study of counterinsurgency. Karl Hack has produced an authoritative and thoroughly researched account of the conflict, introducing fresh perspectives on the basis of new primary evidence. As such, this book is both a uniquely valuable historical examination and a necessary resource in our efforts to learn from the past.' David Ucko, National Defense University

    'Karl Hack has written the definitive history of the Malayan Emergency. He examines the event from the multiple perspectives of the government, the insurgents and the local people. This is outstanding scholarship dealing with one of the defining moments in Malaysian history and the Cold War in Southeast Asia.' Danny Wong, University of Malaya

    'Recommended.' S. Maxim, Choice

    'Hack has written the most sophisticated analysis of the interactions between Malayan Communist and British imperial strategies ever committed to print.' Huw Bennett, War in History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2021
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107439481
    • length: 340 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 29 mm
    • weight: 0.778kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction and overview
    2. Fatal decisions: late 1947 to 20 June 1948
    3. Terror, counter-terror and pressure: June 1948 to January 1949
    4. Bureaucratic counter-terror and MNLA main forces: January 1949 to February 1950
    5. The Briggs plan: March 1950 to November 1951
    6. Chin Peng and communist plans: October 1950 to early 1954
    7. Templer: November 1951 to early 1953
    8. Optimising Counterinsurgency:
    1952 to 1960
    9. Politics, Decolonisation and Counterinsurgency:
    1952 to 1960
    10. Conclusion. Historiography, myths and 'lessons'
    Appendix 1: Emergency statistics (casualties, full time police strength)
    Appendix 2: The second Malayan emergency, 1968-1989

  • Author

    Karl Hack, The Open University, Milton Keynes
    Karl Hack is Professor of History at The Open University, having previously taught for over a decade at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. His previous books include Dialogues with Chin Peng: New Light on the Malayan Emergency (2004), and War Memory and the Making of Modern Malaysia and Singapore (2012).

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