SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

H150 Introduction to the History of South East Asia

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2019/2020
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Full Year

Pathways: South-East Asia, Third World.

This course is designed to provide first year undergraduates with a foundational overview of the history of South East Asia from the rise of the classical states to the middle of the twentieth century. It will equip them with an understanding of the main themes, problems, debates, and types of sources relating to that history. 

As with the other first year regional introduction courses, it will enable students to acquire the basic skills of historical interpretation, argument, and evidence, together with the specific terms, geography, institutions, and concepts particular to the South East Asia region. 

These skills will be reinforced through individual and group library work, project research, essay writing, oral presentations, and evaluation.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • He/she will have a solid foundation in the terms and concepts particular to the study of the History of South East Asia from the early to the modern period and be able to relate those to a corpus of historical writing in English on the region 
  • He/she will be familiar with the main types of sources and methodological approaches demanded of those sources as they relate to the history of the region at an introductory level 
  • He/she will be able to discuss comparatively the historical developments of different parts of South East Asia from the early to the modern period and to 
  • He/she will be able to differentiate between different approaches to the study of South East Asian History and to critically evaluate scholarly literature on the subject of the course 
  • He/she will have acquired the skills needed to formulate a historical argument, to assemble the material necessary to support it, and to organize it in a coherent and persuasive way appropriate to the level of study 
  • He/she will have demonstrated the ability to develop a small collaborative presentation on an historical subject relating to the region and to present findings in written and oral form.
  • He/she will have acquired skills of collaborative learning through group presentations and group work in related tutorials

Scope and syllabus

The course will cover the history of South East Asia from the rise of the classical states to the middle of the twentieth century. The course will proceed chronologically. The main topics will include: 

  • the Indianization of South East Asia;
  • the fall of the classical states—focusing on Pagan;
  • the coming of Islam;
  • the rise of the mainland states—Burma, Siam, Vietnam;
  • the first European impact;
  • the seventeenth century crisis;
  • the establishment of the colonial regimes in South East Asia during the nineteenth century;
  • the collaborative mechanisms of colonial rule;
  • the economic transformation of South East Asia during the colonial period;
  • rural rebellion and the nationalist challenge to colonial rule;
  • the Japanese occupation of South East Asia;
  • the end of colonial rule in South East Asia—by negotiation or conflict;
  • the rise of military regimes—Burma, Indonesia, Thailand.

Method of assessment

Exam (worth 50%), assessment 1 of 2,000 words (worth 20%) and assessment 2 of 2,500 words (worth 30%)

Suggested reading

  • Lieberman, V. Strange Parallels: Southeast Asia in a Global Context, c. 800-1830, (2003).
  • Reid, A. Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450-1680, (1988).
  • Owen, N.G. The Emergence of Modern Southeast Asia, (2005).
  • Heidhues, M.S. Southeast Asia: A Concise History, (2001)
  • Pluvier, J. Historical Atlas of South-East Asia, (1995).
  • Cribb, R. Historical Atlas of Indonesia (1999).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules