SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Asian Armies and National Development

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2019/2020
Taught in:
Term 2
This course examines the emergence of modern armies across Asia after the dust from national liberation struggles and their aftershocks had settled, with special attention to the period after 1960. The course focuses on some of the major themes of modern military history and its implications for national development, examining these armies and combatants as much in their peacetime institutional context and organisational regimes as in actual wars. The major sub-themes to be explored include changing perceptions in Asia of violence and killing in war, globalism and the tensions resulting from the accommodation of new generations of military technology, the military and civil governance, gender roles, military institutions and national development, and the legacies of military confrontation, including, for example, the long term constitutionally-enforced Japanese passivity with the repercussions from contemporary, if semi-hidden rearmament, on the one hand, and entrenched Taiwanese independence on the other. Students will learn what makes Asian militaries tick, why they act the way they do, and what the impact has been on society and politics across Asia, with special attention to East and South East Asia. The course will introduce students to the major secondary works on the military history of the region available in English as well as the major archival collections in London and published documents collections.The overall goal is to understand specifically the relationship between the development of post-revolutionary, modern militaries in Asia, the shift in the global centre of economic and political power from the North Atlantic to the Western Pacific, and social, cultural, and religious change in the region. 

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the course, a student will:

  1. an understanding of how the military history of Asia has related to the political, economic, and social trajectory of South East and East Asia
  2. an understanding of the main historiographical debates and archival constraints related to the military history of South East and East Asia since 1975
  3. An ability to analyse of primary documents and core secondary literature to write critical essays answering questions related to issues covered in the course
  4. The ability to conduct systematic research using archives and the library, including both primary and secondary sources, to answer a research question related to the topics covered in the course

Scope and syllabus

1. The Vietnam War in Asia
2. The US Retreat from Asia and its Consequences
3. Civil Wars and Regional Separatism
4. National Development and Decline
5. The Asian Arms Race
6. Military Training and Recruitment, Social Roots and Impact
7. Religion, Culture, and Representation
8. The RMA, Cyber Warfare, and the War on Terror
9. The Rise of China, the South China Sea, and the U.S. Strategic Pivot
10. The Contemporary Asian Army and Its Future
11. Revision

Method of assessment

Essay of 3,000 words worth 80% of the final mark, Reaction paper/book review of 1,000 words worth 20% of the final mark

Suggested reading

Introductory bibliography:
  • Muthiah Alagappa, Military Professionalism in Asia
  • Christine de Matos and Rowena Ward, Gender, Power, and Military Occupations: Asia Pacific and the Middle East Since 1945
  • Dewitt C. Ellinwood, Jr., Cynthia H. Enloe, Ethnicity and the Military in Asia
  • Scott Gates & Kaushik Roy, Conventional Warfare in South Asia, 1947 to the Present
    Mary Kaldor, New & Old Wars
  • Ronald James May, Viberto Selochan, The Military and Democracy in Asia and the Pacific
  • Marcus Mietzner, The Political Resurgence of the Military in Southeast Asia
  • Kaushik Roy, Military Manpower, Armies and Warfare in South Asia
  • Tomoyuki Sasaki, Japan’s Postwar Military and Civil Society
  • Donald A. Yerxa, Recent Themes in Military History


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules