The Malayan Emergency: Revolution at the end of empire


The Malayan Emergency

Revolution and Counterinsurgency at the End of Empire

By Karl Hack

Published by Cambridge University Press | RRP $ 50.95 in paperback | ISBN 9781139942515


The Malayan Emergency lasted from mid-June 1948 until 31 July 1960. At its peak in 1951-2, 40,000 troops, over 70,000 police and more than 250,000 Home Guards confronted 7,000-8,000 armed insurgents, led by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), who were mostly Chinese. There are disturbing parallels with later conflicts.

The claim that the killing of twenty-four Chinese villagers by Scots Guards at Batang Kali in December 1948 had been murder was met with counterclaims that patrols were unable to differentiate villagers from insurgents. How this observation echoes down the years from other similar conflicts.

This book is highly detailed, with the aim of bringing our understanding of the conflict up to date by interweaving government and insurgent accounts.

Hack ponders the question of how the insurgency and counterinsurgency shaped decolonisation, which was happening rapidly throughout Asia.

From an Australian perspective, there is little mention of Australia’s support for the British. The Menzies Government committed initially to sending a squadron each of Dakotas and Lincolns and a military advisory mission. An earlier request to the Chifley Labor Government had been rejected.

This book offers a very comprehensive account of the Malayan Emergency and how it evolved. Eventually, Malaya negotiated independence from its colonial master in 1957, later forming the country we know today as Malaysia.

Further reading:

Australian readers looking for an understanding of Australia’s military involvement in the Emergency might find this title of great interest:

Dennis, Peter; Jeffrey Grey (1996). Emergency and Confrontation: Australian Military Operations in Malaya and Borneo 1950–1966The Official History of Australia’s Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948–1975. Vol. 5. Allen and Unwin. ISBN 1-86373-302-7


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