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Background photo courtesy of Wasitthee Chaiyakan


I have been teaching in one capacity or another, as Teaching Associate at Ohio University in 1991 to Professor at SOAS today, for a a quarter of a century. In that time, I have covered both global and world history courses and regional history courses, and topical courses covering military, intellectual, and political history, and on one occasion an Anthropology of Religion course. I majored in Asian History and Minored in African History in my MA Programme at Ohio and then, in my PhD programme at the University of Michigan, candidates were required to undertake five fields for preliminary examinations, for which we were to develop the profiency necessary to teach these fields at the university level. My fields were premodern Japan, premodern China, premodern Southeast Asia, modern Southeast Asia, and Muscovite Russia. But in the years since, I have developed a strong grasp of modern East Asian history and of the unity of South, Southeast Asian, and East Asian history from World War II to the present. I have included on this page a few of the courses I have taught or am teaching at SOAS.

Asian Wars : World War II and the End of Empire, 1942-1960 (1 term postgraduate course)


This course examines the relationship between the historical experiencce of World War II and the Wars of Independence that immediately followed in Asia. Attention is devoted to the major players in the theatre, including Britain, the United States, China, India, Japan, and South East Asia, and how they viewed the Conflicts in World War II and after in peculiar ways that were reflected in and reinforced by the historiography they produced both during and after the conflict was over. The course will show that many of the major developments, impacts, and controversies that arose out of the Campaign, with serious implications for Asia, can only be fully understood by approaching the war as a phenomenon that was transnational and global from the beginning and not through national lenses nor through a later Cold War lens. Moreover, the course puts the military history of this period at the intersection of South, South East, and East Asia into its broader social, economic, and political contexts. The course will introduce students to the major secondary works on the war in the theatre available in English as well as the major archival collections in London and published documents collections.The overall goal is to understand specifically the relationship between the experience of World War II and the postwar conflicts on their own terms instead of through the Cold War filter as historiography between the 1950s and the 1990s has tended to do until more recent revisionist historiography after the end of the Cold War.    

H254 Indigenous Warfare & Society in Early Modern Southeast Asia, 1300-1830 (2 term undergraduate course)


The objectives of this course are two-fold. The course is arranged topically in order to make clearer to the student how a certain related set of developments (firearm technologies, for example) impacted –and to what degree-- the overall trajectory of warfare in the region and aided some societies while disadvantaging others in regional state competition and warfare. In short, this course attempts to show students what mattered and why and how these results differentiated the region from international, or at least European, experiences.


The second objective is to provide some understanding, through an examination of warfare prior to the European advance, why Southeast Asia as a region, lost in the long early-modern military technological race with Europe and South and East Asia.


In other words, the course also seeks to show students the relationship between inter-regional technology transfer and intra-regional political change and why Europe gained the upper hand prior to the nineteenth century and was able to manipulate these links to gain control of the region by the end of that century. It is hoped that students will leave the course with a strong comprehension of how technological, cultural, and political change in the context of warfare interconnected and helped shaped the region as we know it today.

H398/498 The Vietnam War and Asia I & II (2 term, 3rd year special subject, 2017-2018)


This course examines the Vietnam War and its impact on Asia, in particular on  number of Southeast Asian societies. Properly known as the Second Indochina War, the conflict was unique in the scale of U.S. military investment and the profound destruction delivered by the world’s most powerful military machine, the U.S. Air Force. Nevertheless, the war did not result in American victory, nor did peace result in stability, leading instead to decades of civil war, social disruption, poverty, one of the world’s most notorious examples of genocide in modern history, and yet another Indochina War by the end of the 1970s. Why the war resulted in so much collateral damage is often explained by reference to American overkill and strategic errors by the Nixon Administration. This course considers whether these explanations are sufficient. The course examines the broader Asian experience of the Vietnam War, how Asians shaped and were impacted by the conflict, and why the war ultimately spun out of control and beyond the borders of Vietnam. It will do so by examining a wide range of primary source documents, including conventional archival documentation but also oral histories, newsreels, photographs, and even movie making.

Asian Armies and National Development (1 term postgraduate course)


This course examines the emergence of modern armies across Asia after the dust from national liberation struggles and their aftershocks had settled, with special attention to the period after 1960. The course focuses on some of the major themes of modern military history and its implications for national development, examining these armies and combatants as much in their peacetime institutional context and organisational regimes as in actual wars. The major sub-themes to be explored include changing perceptions in Asia of violence and killing in war, globalism and the tensions resulting from the accommodation of new generations of military technology, the military and civil governance, gender roles, military institutions and national development, and the legacies of military confrontation, including, for example, the long term constitutionally-enforced Japanese passivity with the repercussions from contemporary, if semi-hidden rearmament, on the one hand, and entrenched Taiwanese independence on the other. Students will learn what makes Asian militaries tick, why they act the way they do, and what the impact has been on society and politics across Asia, with special attention to East and South East Asia. The course will introduce students to the major secondary works on the military history of the region available in English as well as the major archival collections in London and published documents collections.The overall goal is to understand specifically the relationship between the development of post-revolutionary, modern militaries in Asia, the shift in the global centre of economic and political power from the North Atlantic to the Western Pacific, and social, cultural, and religious change in the region.  

H398 Vietnam War and Asia Syllabus (Charney, SOAS, Asian Wars Syllabus 2016-17

H214 Violence in History (1 term undergraduate course, 2017)


Violence in general and war in particular are often understood from a Western perspective. War is seen to conflict with the ideals of the Enlightenment, to be structured in the way proposed by Clausewitz, and yet to be an important part of the politics of the home and the nation. From a broader, global perspective, however, war has come to encompass a great many things that have nothing or little to do with this evaluation. Different societies and cultures manifest and experience war and violence in many ways. Far from the negative value often attached to war in the post-Enlightenment West, war is sometimes viewed as having a positive role in society. This module therefore seeks to understand war and violence from a non- Western perspective -- to understand how they emerge from particular historical circumstances and how they produce different consequences in different periods and geographical, cultural, ethnic, and even religious contexts. A student successfully completing this module will have learned how to distinguish between popular representations of war and violence and their historical realities. In doing so, they will also have learned why the history of violence, its material consequences, and the construction of this experience manifest themselves differently in non-western societies than they do in the West. Students will learn how to develop historical questions regarding representations of war and violence in popular media or scholarly literature, to use the library and other research tools (electronic databases and existing bibliographies for example) to develop a short bibliography of their own, and to write a research-based essay. They will also take an exam on the topics covered by the course. A student taking this course will be exposed to a wide array of representations of warfare, violence, and their consequences, some of which may be difficult to watch or read. Prospective students should consider this when electing to take this course.



1 -  Memory , 2 -  Violence and War 3 - Just and UnJust Wars  4 - Shaping the Warrior  5 -  Photography  6 -  Resistance in the Age of Expansion  7 -  Armed Modernity  8 -  Internecine Conflict  9 -  State and Extra-State Warfare 10-  Aftermath of Violence