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Lecture | COGLOSS

Between the Court and the Village: Uncovering how was Early Modern Warfare Really Waged in Southeast Asia

Wednesday 29 March 2023
COGLOSS seminars 2022-2023
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden

Presentation abstract

The literature on premodern warfare of Southeast Asia has grown significantly in the last two decades in large part because of the growing number of Southeast Asian scholars who have taken up the topic. We have more information now than we have ever had and about many more, particularly local areas across the region. Accompanying the development of the scholarship there have also been changes to the audience of the work being produced. The study of premodern warfare is now desired to be increasingly expansive to include attention no longer just on strategy and tactics, weapons, and destruction, but also now to some of the themes central to the study of modern warfare, such as the impact of war on non-combatants, on environmental and demographic impacts, and on the economy, in short, how warfare has impacted historically, those we might call everyday people and, more broadly, everyday life. Due to the nature of how knowledge of war was constructed in early modern courts, available indigenous sources shaped by royal imaginaries generally blind us to the reality of war as experienced on the ground by these everyday people. Where once it was argued that scholars needed to turn to indigenous sources to avoid European biases, this presentation argues that, ironically, to get closer to understanding how warfare was actually fought on the ground, we need to look more closely at European documents, with some caveats, among a range of other nonconventional sources. This presentation looks primarily at the warfare of the early modern period in mainland Southeast Asia but with some comments on the new directionality of research on warfare in the Southeast Asian region as a whole and future steps the field might undertake

The lecture will be followed by comments from David Henley and Tristan Mostert, and plenary discussion. 

Michael Charney

Professor Charney (PhD, University of Michigan, 1999) is a military historian of Asia. His main research interests are on the history of military logistics, armies and warfare in modern and contemporary Asia, the historical culture of war in Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, and West Africa, and the emergence of religious and national cultures in Myanmar (Burma) and the greater Bay of Bengal. He is the author of Southeast Asian Warfare, 1300-1900 (2004). His recent publications include Imperial Military Transportation in British Asia: Burma 1941–1942, 2019, and Warring Societies of Pre-Colonial Southeast Asia (2017, co-edited with Kathy Wellen). 

Join meeting

Please let us know if you can join by e-mailing t.mostert@hum.leidenuniv.nl. Also, considering that this lecture is to take place at lunch time, feel free to bring lunch and eat it during the lecture!   

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