Britain and the Neutralisation of Laos

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By Nicholas Tarling

This study focuses on the Geneva conference on Laos of 1961-2, which Britain played a role in bringing about and bringing to a conclusion. It throws light on Britain's policy in Southeast Asia in what in some sense may be seen as the last of the decades in which its influence was crucial. It is the first book to make full use of the British archives on the conference.

The book also bears on the history of Laos, of Vietnam, and of Southeast Asia more generally. The core of the Geneva Settlement was the neutralisation of Laos. That was, however, an argument for the United States to strengthen its commitment to Thailand and Vietnam. It could, moreover, be accepted by North Vietnam only if it did not prevent continued use of the Ho Chi Minh trail, through which it could sustain resistance in South Vietnam. Under such circumstances, the agreement on neutralisation, though elaborately negotiated, had little chance of success. In the longer term, however, it was not without its legacy, for the agreement played a part in developing the concept of a neutral Southeast Asia that ASEAN was later to advance.

The book will interest in the various fields on which it touches, such as modern Southeast Asian history, the history of Laos, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and international relations. It will, of course, be of especial interest to those studying Britain's policy at a time when Britain was increasingly anxious to reduce its commitments, but also as always to avert the escalation of the Cold War.

"Serious students will find it necessary to read this study in order to understand how that story unfolded, and find it difficult to undermine Tarling's conclusions about how it affected the wider Southeast Asian context." - Brian Farrell

"...through his well-documented research, Professor Tarling has undeniably contributed much to the understanding and appreciation of the British efforts in dealing and negotiating for the agreement, the best sensible and exemplary British diplomacy during the Cold War..." - Chalong Soontravanich

Nicholas Tarling (1931–2017) was Professor of History at the University of Auckland (1968–97) and a Fellow of its New Zealand Asia Institute. He was the editor of The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia and wrote nearly 50 books and a large number of articles on the region. His recent publications include Britain, Southeast Asia and the Impact of the Korean War, a cold war trilogy (The British and the Vietnam War: Their Way with LBJ, Britain and the Neutralisation of Laos, Britain and Sihanouk's Cambodia), and Orientalism and the Operatic World

Publication Year: 2011
532 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-503-3, Paperback

NUS Press