Rambling about A History of East Asia – Early Dynasties, Colonialism, and China as a Global Hegemon

Key takeaways:

  • Holcombe’s A History of East Asia is the kind of dry, academic, extremely cautious textbook that gives history as a subject a bad name (and myself some flashbacks to uni).
  • Nonetheless, this book is certainly a serviceable overview of the histories of China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, which was the minimum I was hoping for.
  • Like most other geographical regions, the overall gist of East Asian history is a move (over millennia) from many small kingdoms to centralization and now, increasingly, globalization. In-between, there are a lot of revenge cycles, family members killing each other, and foreign invasions.
  • This book only included Vietnam in this second edition, and even so, the Vietnam content is pretty light. After reading it, I understand why the author was hesitant to put Vietnam into the category of “East Asia” as its history doesn’t quite follow the same kinds of patterns as the other countries. Still, I’ll probably have to seek out other resources to learn more.

In the video, I also go over some highlights and “things I didn’t know” about the history itself. Short version is: the antecedents of events and documents are often unexpected and sometimes downright bizarre… “truth is stranger than fiction”!