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Southeast Asia: A History in Objects (British Museum)

Alexandra Green


A new take on Southeast Asia’s complex history, expertly told through art objects and cultural artefacts dating from the Neolithic Age to the present

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Southeast Asia is home to numerous world heritage sites. Through engaging texts and expertly curated objects from the British Museum collection, arranged chronologically and thematically into seven chapters, this volume offers a new approach to one of the most complex and diverse areas of the world. Every object tells a story in a wide-ranging and accessible selection that illuminates the civilizations, societies and local cultures that have defined Southeast Asia over the past 6,000 years.

From the emergence of early agricultural communities and stratified societies to the rise of powerful empires and religious developments in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, and to the eras of colonial rule and independence, curator and art historian Alexandra Green traces and explores the variety of Southeast Asian cultures. The texts describe the region through a broad range of objects, including sculptures from the historic civilizations of Java, Angkor, Bagan and Sukhothai, as well as ceramics, furniture, religious items, basketry, textiles, popular posters and contemporary art. This book is an informative visual delight for curious minds everywhere.

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'Green allows us to see shared moments of history … and their shared impact on artistic production'
Art Quarterly

'Beautifully illustrated … a reminder, if one was needed, of the vibrant creativity of the people of this part of our world'
Arts Society

'Succeeds in capturing a more diverse and complex story … If ever you need a quick guide to Southeast Asia’s history, this is it'

'Outstanding … the magnum opus of Alexandra Green’s career'
Dawn Rooney, author and Art Historian specialising in Southeast Asia

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.0 x 17.0 cm

Extent: 272 pp

Illustrations: 417

Publication date: 20 February 2023

ISBN: 9780500480878

Contents List

1. Early cultures: 30,000 years ago to c. 500 CE
2. Kingdoms: c. 300–1500 CE
3. Trade, diplomacy and empire: c. 1400–1940
4. From the everyday to the sacred: 1600–2020
5. Narrative and performance
6. Textiles and basketry: women’s perspectives
7. The 20th and 21st centuries

About the Author

Alexandra Green, the Henry Ginsburg Curator for Southeast Asia at the British Museum, has written and edited numerous books and articles on Southeast Asia’s arts and material cultures. Publications and edited volumes include Raffles in Southeast Asia: Revisiting the Scholar and Statesman (2019), Buddhist Visual Cultures, Rhetoric, and Narrative in Late Burmese Wall Paintings (2018) and Rethinking Visual Narratives from Asia: Intercultural and Comparative Perspectives (2013).