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Massacre in Malaya: Exposing Britain's My Lai Hardcover – 1 Oct 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (1 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752487019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752487014
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 452,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am a non-fiction writer and television executive producer. I graduated with a First from Sussex University and studied film at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. I made many documentaries for the BBC as well as other international broadcasters. My first book 'Himmler's Crusade' (Transworld/Bantam) has been translated into a number of languages and won the Italian Premio Gambrinus 'Giuseppe Mazzotti' prize in 2006. 'Hitler's Foreign Executioners' was long listed as History Book of the Year by Longmans/History Today in 2011 and has been widely translated. The Polish edition was a non fiction best seller. My new book 'Massacre in Malaya' (2013) takes a fresh look at how the British ruled Malaya and fought the 'Emergency'. I am currently working in Singapore...

Product Description

About the Author

Christopher Hale is a former BBC television producer and the author of "Hitler's Foreign Exectioners "and "Himmler's Crusade," which won the prestigious Guiseppe Mazzotti "Premio Gambrinus" Prize. In 2007, he lived and worked in Malaysia making a documentary for National Geographic, and began researching the history of Britain's longest 20th century war.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dinsdale on 29 Nov 2013
Format: Hardcover
Christopher Hale's previous two books--Himmler's Crusade and Hitler's Foreign Executioners--were riveting and assiduously researched. Now, with "Massacre in Malaya, Exposing Britain's My Lai" he has done it again, delving into a murky corner of recent British history. This is an utterly engrossing, yet deeply disturbing read, revealing the true causes and events of the euphemistically termed `Malayan Emergency'. Superb.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RichardS on 28 Nov 2013
Format: Hardcover
Christopher Hale's 'Massacre in Malaya: Exposing Britain's My Lai' is one of the best researched pieces of writing I've read in a long time.

In his book, Hale investigates the history and the events leading up to the killing of 24 villagers by British troops near Batang Kali, Malaysia, in December 1948. It's an incident that has been shrouded in mystery and cover-up, and only now is the real truth becoming known.

Christopher Hale also works in a detailed history of the area and how, over a period of two hundred years, Imperial powers of various European nations used the people and resources of the Far East for their own profitable ends.

It's a remarkable and enlightening work, shining a light on an incident that many, at the time, and since, would rather have left forgotten. For the sake of justice, and historical record, it's a book that should be widely read.
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Format: Hardcover
This amazing book is actually a history of British Malaya.

On 11 December 1948, a Scots Guards officer, Captain George Ramsay, took his platoon to a small settlement of Chinese rubber tappers near the village of Batang Kali and ordered the soldiers to ‘wipe out anybody they found there’. In 1969, Ramsay commented, “Up to that day our bag of terrorists had been very poor indeed.”

Hale writes, “The secret history of British Malaya and the making of modern Malaysia was, from the very beginning, founded on chicanery and violence, on skulduggery and conquest.”

He points to the “emergence of a globalised economy that had an insatiable appetite for cheap labour. As one British Royal Commissioner put it: ‘Every consideration of humanity […] must concur with a due regard for the interests of property …’”

In March 1948, the colonial government proposed a new law to clamp down on trade unions. Hale comments that in May, “Chin Peng had indeed taken a decisive step in the direction of armed revolt. The party had been pushed in this direction not so much by Moscow ‘directives’, but by the aggressive plans of the colonial government. … Violence, in other words, was a logical rejoinder to the avaricious new imperialism pursued by the British government after the war. The exploitation of Malayan resources was enforced through violence. It was British troops who fired the first lethal shots in Sungai Siput and Taiping in October 1945.”

Hale sums up, “The Emergency War in Malaya was a nasty and brutal business that had unintended consequences which punish and divide the people of Southeast Asia to this day. Violence was integral to ‘the British way in counter insurgency’. To be sure, counter-insurgent violence had different forms.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Markus Eichhorn on 28 Aug 2014
Format: Hardcover
The first, most important feature of this intriguing book is that it isn't really about the incident referred to by its arresting title. Hale sets out to provide the full background and context for the Batang Kali incident during the first emergency in Malaysia, when Scots Guards executed several dozen innocent Chinese workers in a remote village. It remains an egregious atrocity within the wider context of the British withdrawal from Malaya, but Hale demonstrates that it was not unexpected, nor uncharacteristic of Imperial forces when placed under duress.

Almost 300 pages of the book have passed before Hale reaches the Batang Kali massacre, which itself takes up only about 25 pages. Providing this broad historical context actually serves to diminish the impact of the incident itself. Was this really worse than the forced resettlement and interment of well over a million Chinese farmers in atrocious conditions? The bombing of remote and isolated orang asli villages in the forest? The brutal treatment of the resistance movement in Sarawak? If anything, by the end of the book one is left feeling that in this region alone the British did many worse things in the name of Empire.

As a history of the formation of the modern state of Malaysia, however, the book is excellent, though primarily written from the perspective of colonial administrators rather than the native inhabitants. There is a certain style of old-fashioned writing in places, where dramatis personae are introduced by their public school and Oxbridge college, as if this conveys important context for understanding their later actions.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Important Insights into British Colonialism in the Far East 13 Dec 2013
By ChangingTimes Press - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The first thing to note about this book is the title is a misnomer. It is not fundamentally about the Massacre and the new evidence Hale discovers that reinforces a picture of British colonial brutality --it is really about the British epic battle to retain and maintain one of the last vestiges of empire. Clearly the publishers wanted to sensationalize the "My Lai" aspects of the massacre and we can forgive them for it if some of the new revelations help to sell more copies of this deeply researched book about a country and a colonial past that few have bothered to get to know. Massacre in Malaya deserves a wide audience. In this lucidly written book we learn just how devious British colonial rule was. The British took advantage of a lazy aristocracy as they turned the courts into `ornamental institutions' that served commercial interests and transformed the country into a reflection of the undemocratic class based society of Victorian England. While Chinese and Indian immigrant labor did the farming, fishing and mining, the Brit flattered sultans would parcel out awards and titles to their chosen acolytes.. Even during wartime, safeguarding the empire was of prime importance. Churchill and his supporters are pictured as dismayed at America's growing impatience with Britain's imperial dreams. Racism was core to the strategy but Hale masterfully describes how the obsessive need to see non whites as inferior people backfired. Because the Japanese were seen as in the words of one blimpish memo as `short sighted little men' few in Singapore took the Japanese threat of invasion seriously. Even when the Japanese did win that rich port city the Daily Mail cartoonist Illingworth depicted a monkey like Emperor Hirohito wearing a colonial hat marked Singapore with the caption "Fun while it Lasts." The Japanese were soon into Malaya and the Brits were out as was centuries of colonial rule, but another kind of horror began as the virulent Japanese army committed despicable acts that could be called genocidal but fall short of the technical definitions. But then after the war was over and the Japanese surrendered, the Brits were faced with what to do with their former colony. As Hale carefully explains the Brits took back their former colonies on `American sufferance' but the price the Americans extracted was a high one;. India had to go and the Brits had to commit themselves to a process of decolonization. What the Brits did not count on was a civil war, that followed the power vacuum after the Japanese surrended. Malaya would continue be at war until 1989 when the communists finally capitulated. The Brits were stuck and in the cold war era could not help but follow an American inspired agenda that saw communists as the enemy even when no evidence could be found that the communists received any aid from the soviets or the Chinese. Driving the policy was a desperate need to continue to exploit Malayan resources particular valuable rubber for a nation that wanted to make car ownership affordable for every household. Hale shows in detailed ways how the policy worked, how the misidentification of Chinese workers with communists came about due to lazy racist attitudes and the human suffering that resulted in needless deaths including the murderous massacre itself when a patrol of fourteen `virgin' British soldiers entered a rainforest 45 miles north of Kula Lumpar and mowed down 23 Chinese looking day workers. Hale covers the story drawing on new information up to September 2012 that ended when the British judges refused to accept `the moth eaten `shot while trying to escape' story that had been spun by the British government for more than six decades." It is an enthralling tragic account that reflects a difficult morally troubled period in history of both countries and that has remained largely untold. Anyone seriously interested in colonial history and the ways that history continues to affect modern politics in the subject countries and elsewhere should read this book.
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