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Western Power in Asia: Its Slow Rise and Swift Fall, 1415 - 1999

ISBN: 978-0-470-82489-4
448 pages
November 2009
Western Power in Asia: Its Slow Rise and Swift Fall, 1415 - 1999 (0470824891) cover image


For centuries, the major poweres of the West were seduced by the allure of the countries of "the Far East". Spices, textiles, silk and tea were the staples of East- West trade. But competition between Western traders eventually caused military intervention in Asian affairs and the establishment of colonial empires. These actions have shapred the history of mankind and left a legacy that still reverberates throughout Asia.

Western Power in Asia is a unique contribution to the understanding of present- day Asia. Essential reading for anyone interested in world history, Arthur Cotterell offers fascinating insights into five hundred extraordinary years of power and influence by the West, which disappeared spectacularly after the Second World War. The author's ability to tell both sides of the story, with the aid of contemporary illustrations as well as quotations, makes this book a tremendous resource for students of Asian history. And because the entire colonial experience is covered for the first time within a single volume, Western Power in Asia also provides the general reader with an unusual and invaluable perspective on East- West relations.

As countries such as China and India become key players on the world stage, Western Power in Asia provides a timely reminder of the path that led to their present positions, while allowing a poignant opportunity to reflect on how they might in future treat their Western trading partners.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction xi

Photo Credits xix


Chapter 1: Iberian Expansion Overseas, 1415–1647 3

Portuguese and Chinese Maritime Exploration Compared — The Sea Route to India Discovered — The Formation of the Portuguese Empire — Mixed Portuguese Success in Southeast Asia — China and Japan.

Chapter 2: The Struggle for Supremacy, 1647–1815 53

Early Dutch Power — New Rivals: the French and the English — The Battle for India — Britain’s Triumph — A Chinese Rebuff.

Chapter 3: Imperial Heyday, 1815–1905 107

The Opium Wars — The Indian Mutiny — France's Colonial Revival — The American Colony of the Philippines — The Russo-Japanese War.


Chapter 4: The Advent of Imperial Japan, 1868–1941 161

The Meiji Restoration — A New Balance of Power — Revolution in China — Colonial Unrest — The Sino-Japanese War.

Chapter 5: The Collapse of Western Power, 1941–45 215

The Outbreak of the Pacifi c War — Catastrophe in Southeast Asia — Japan's New Order in Asia — The Fall of the Japanese Empire — The Surrender of Japan


Chapter 6: The Beginnings of Withdrawal, 1945–50 269

The Post-War Settlement — The End of the Indian Empire — Dutch Failure in Indonesia — The Communist Triumph in China — The Occupation of Japan

Chapter 7: Cold War Complications, 1950–99 321

US Intervention — Independence in British Southeast Asia — The Tragedy of Vietnam — Accommodating China and Japan — Post-colonial Conflicts Postscript: Last Post in Hong Kong 1997 373

Chronology 377

Endnotes 389

Bibliography 407

Index 441

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Author Information

Arthur Cotterell was formerly the principal of Kinston College, London. Having lived and travelled widely in Asia, he has been writing about Asian affairs for decades. In 1980 he published The First Emperor of China, whose account of Qin Shi Huangdi's remarkable reign was immediately translated into seven languages. His other works on subjects related to Western Power in Asia have also been acclaimed and translated. At present he is writing a history of Asia.
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This is three-dimensional historiography at its best.” – The Japan Times
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Press Release

October 01, 2009
Western Power in Asia: Its Slow Rise and Swift Fall, 1415 – 1999

Western Power in Asia: Its Slow Rise and Swift Fall, 1415-1999 is a unique contribution to the understanding of present-day Asia, offering readers a unique overview of the 500 extraordinary years of Western power and influence in Asia. Never before has so much political narrative on the entire Western colonial experience been covered in a single volume like this book. 

Author and Asian history expert Arthur Cotterell brings each era to life, giving incisive analysis to key events, using well-chosen illustrations and quotations from contemporary sources to represent Western and Eastern voices from each period in question. Painting a vast historical canvas of the whole colonial period from the arrival of the Portuguese in India in the fifteenth century till the delayed liberation in 1999 of their last colony, Eastern Timor, this book provides a reflective insight into the origins of many of today’s economic and trade structures in the robust region of Asia. 

A knowledgeable and comprehensive survey, Western Power in Asia will be an important and authoritative resource for students and anyone interested in world history.

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