Communism, Nationalism and Religion in 1950s Malaya: Ben Ashbridge

During the 1950s the British colony of Malaya experienced one of the most tumultuous periods the Southeast Asian peninsula had ever seen.

Having just been liberated from Japanese occupation and increasingly fractured internally by severe ethno-religious conflicts, Malaya experienced a decade-long communist-insurrection countered by martial rule, whilst an Islamic-Malay nationalist movement was successful in attaining Malayan independence in 1957.

Histories of this era in Malaysian history predominantly focus upon these military and political developments, overlooking pivotal social transformations and cultural developments, particularly amongst the 40% of the Malayan population who were not ethnically Malay. This talk explores the actions of British Christian missionaries amongst ethnic Chinese groups during the Malayan Emergency, investigating issues of religious and cultural identity in a time of immense political instability.

Presented at Churchill College, 31 October 2018.

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