The Peasant Robbers of Kedah, 1900-1929: Historical and Folk Perceptions (Second Edition)

$36.00 SGD

By Cheah Boon Kheng

In the early twentieth century, social banditry was endemic in the countryside near the border between the northern Malaysian state of Kedah and Siam, and some outlaws became local heroes. Cheah Boon Kheng's account of peasant banditry and the society where it flourished draws on colonial records, literary sources and interviews to examine the circumstances that led the Governor, Sir Laurence Guillemard, to call the border area one of the most lawless and insecure districts in British Malaya during the 1920s. Considering banditry from the perspective of the peasant community, Cheah concludes that it grew out of lax government, weak policing, the geography of the border region and underdevelopment, and suggests that bandit heroes might be seen as symbols of rural protest. His discussion of the details of rural life in the early twentieth century and the conditions that underlay rural crime provide a unique social history of rural society in Malaya.

This innovative volume broke new ground in Malaysian studies when it first appeared in 1988. This second edition is intended for the work to reach a new audience.


"Cheah's stimulating book makes a valuable contribution to the growing but still insufficient literature on Malaysian social and working-class history."
Craig A. Lockard

"...this book makes a significant contribution to the literature on Southeast Asian history, politics, and law; it should be of interest both to Southeast Asianists and to others concerned with peasantry and problems of law and order in the broadest sense." - Michael G. Peletz

“In the context of the shortage of interest among Malaysian social historians to employ the ‘history from below’ approach, the presence of The Peasant Robbers of Kedah certainly breaks new ground in Malaysian studies. Dr Cheah’s work opens up many other issues with regard to the socioeconomic situation in rural Kedah in the early twentieth century.”- Mahani Musa


Cheah Boon Kheng was formerly Professor of Malaysian History at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang. He is also the author of Red Star Over Malaya: Resistance and Social Conflict During and After the Japanese Occupation, 1941-1946 (Fourth Edition) and To' Janggut: Legends, Histories, and Perceptions of the 1915 Rebellion in Kelantan.

Second Edition
Publication Year: 2014
200 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-675-7, Paperback

NUS Press