ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Making of Asia

Makers of Modern Asia edited by Ramachandra Guha, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014; pp 385, price not indicated.

How can we understand contemporary Asia? One answer is that global and domestic economic changes over the past three decades account for the nature of contemporary Asia. By contrast, Ramachandra Guha’s new edited book suggests that it is Asia’s political development, shaped by 11 outstanding leaders, which is the key. Last year, my review in EPW of Srinath Raghavan’s book on the Bangladesh war was titled, “The Making of Bangladesh.” Guha’s Makers of Modern Asia lends itself nicely to a parallel title—“The Making of Asia.” Raghavan is more a political scientist with a historian’s eye, and Guha is more a historian with an increasingly political science eye; both are drawn to rendering the story of Asia in a larger global history setting.

Guha’s broad contention is that while there is considerable literature on Asia’s dramatic economic rise over the past two decades, scholarship on the political and sociological factors which preceded rapid economic growth suffers by comparison. There are various ways in which the political and sociological development of Asia over the past 70 years might be understood; Guha argues that biography is an increasingly attractive method.

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