Synopses & Reviews
Between the fifteenth and the mid-seventeenth centuries, when the Renaissance and early capitalism were transforming Europe, changes no less dramatic were occurring in Southeast Asia. This diverse tropical region was integrated into a global trade system, while trade-based cities came to dominate its affairs. Its states became more centralized and absolutist, and its people adopted scriptural faiths of personal morality. The pace of these changes finds parallels only in our own era.
Anthony Reid has analyzed and vividly portrayed this Southeast Asian Age of Commerce in two volumes. The first volume, published in 1988 to great acclaim, explored the physical, material, cultural, and social structures of the region. The concluding volume focuses on the profound changes that defined the Age of Commerce as a period. The spice trade that animated the global boom of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries made possible revolutionary changes in urbanization, commercialization, state structure, and belief. Islam, Christianity, and Theravada Buddhism made rapid gains in alliance with the new states. Reid discerns common ground between these developments and the forces transforming Europe and Japan but identifies particular limitations on the growth of private capital and the stability of states in Southeast Asia. A final chapter explores the crisis in the mid-seventeenth century that disengaged Southeast Asians from the world economy for the next three centuries.
Anthony Reid is professor of Southeast Asian history, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University.
In The Lands below the Winds-the first volume of a two-volume set chronicling the rise of Southeast Asian culture during the years from 1450 to 1680-Anthony Reid vividly explores everyday life in the different societies of the region, from diet, housing, commerce, and law to sexual and family relations, patterns of warfare, and popular entertainment. In so doing he enables us to perceive the underlying coherence and splendid variety in the complex mosaic of Southeast Asia. "Anyone interested in Southeast Asian history should read, teach, and learn from this enthralling, fastidious book."-David P. Chandler, Journal of Asian Studies "There is nothing that catches better the general look of things on the eve of European hegemony or evokes more effectively what Southeast Asia was like when Southeast Asians themselves bestrode it."-Clifford Geertz, New York Review of Books "An outstandingly readable example of its genre, a superb unrhetorical portrayal of its society and period. One can scarcely wait for the sequel."-E.L. Jones, Asian Studies Association of Australia Review "A model of 'total history.' The level of synthesis, judgment, and insight are so high as to entirely reconstruct our understanding of pre-colonial Southeast Asia."-James C. Scott, Yale University "It is the most important study in the field for many years; it is likely to set the agenda for research in the field for many years to come."-Norman Owen, All Asia Review of Books