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I am currently writing a chapter on the historiography of modern Southeast Asia for a new edition of the Cambridge History of Southeast Asia, due to appear in 2024.
The field of modern Southeast Asian history (defined as the period since about 1800) is unusual in the broader discipline of history in the extent to which it is dominated by scholars outside the region, in its roots in cross-disciplinary area studies and in its lack of geographical centre.
In explaining the field, I have decided not to focus on big names and great works. Instead, I identify four streams of metanarrative which account for most history-writing on the period since 1800: Modernist, autonomist, internationalist and discursive.
I conclude by speculating, in a very unhistorical way, on potential future developments.
Robert Cribb is Professor of Asian History in the Department of Political and Social Change. He is a historian of Indonesia with broader interests in Southeast Asia and in Asia as a whole. His interests include political and environmental history, the history of violence and historical geography.