Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper - review by Allan Massie

Allan Massie

Rules of Engagement

Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire


Allen Lane / Penguin Press 651pp £30

Forgotten Wars is the sequel to the same authors’ Forgotten Armies, which told the story of our war against Japan in the East. Like its predecessor, published in 2004, this new book is very detailed, the fruit of vast research, not always easy to read. Though it comes from a general publisher one would suppose that its main readership will be among academics. Old Asian hands may buy it, read in it, mutter disapproval quite often, but probably not read it from cover to cover. That is quite an undertaking, and it requires a considerable effort to keep track of the hundreds of characters, some of them going at different times under different names. 

The subtitle, if not positively misleading, nevertheless may arouse expectations the book doesn’t satisfy. For most of us the principal event in the dissolution of empire was the granting of independence to India, but far more of the book is devoted to Burma and Malaya; even Indonesia, not a British

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