The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future

Paperback, 295 pages, 6x9, English
by Milton Osborne
ISBN: 0-87113-806-9

A compelling, lively narrative history of the peoples and cultures of the great river of Southeast Asia, The Mekong spans two thousand years--from the dawn of civilization on the Mekong Delta to the political and environmental challenges the region faces today. Beginning with the rise of ancient seafaring civilizations at Oc Eco and moving on to the glory of the Cambodian empire in the first millennium, through European colonization and the struggle for independence in the twentieth century, Osborne traces the history of the region that comprises the modern nations of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, and China. Vibrant, insightful, and eminently readable, The Mekong is a rousing history of a dynamic region that has fascinated readers the world over.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Mekong River, which begins in windswept, upland Tibet and runs through China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, has a rich history, the subject of Osborne's pathbreaking, ecologically informed chronicle. Beginning with the fifth-century Khmer empire and the magnificent Angkor temple complex, his brisk narrative moves on to a colorful account of 16th-century explorers, missionaries and merchants who vied for supremacy in the region. Osborne retraces the French Mekong Expedition of 1866-1868, which he calls a heroic, epic endeavor, but he also emphasizes the bloody repression and inequities fostered by French colonialism. From 1966 onward came multiple tragedies--years of relentless American bombing, the Khmer Rouge's genocide, massacres of Vietnamese living in Cambodia, imposition of harsh communist regimes--and Osborne, a former Australian diplomat, U.N. advisor and author of seven books on Southeast Asia, graphically records the human costs to the Mekong region's inhabitants. The Mekong Delta is Vietnam's rice basket, thanks to centuries of canal building, and the fish in Cambodia's Great Lake, linked to a Mekong tributary, provide 60% of Cambodia's protein intake. Although China's hydroelectric dam-building projects pose the threat of declining fish catches and disruption of subsistence agriculture, China has shown scant concern for the environmental consequences. Clear-felling of timber, disastrous floods, pollution and an AIDS epidemic also threaten the Mekong civilizations. Although Osborne's amalgam of travel, reportage and history is not quite the full-bodied cultural saga the river deserves, his book is a pulsating journey through the heart of Southeast Asia. Illus. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The author admits that the enormous power and potential of the Mekong River is his obsession, begun when he was a foreign service officer and subsequently cultivated through four decades of traveling and living in Southeast Asia. Osborne has covered the subject for the New Republic, drawing upon a large reserve of personal knowledge and careful research in the French Colonial Archives. Beginning in the 1860s, he traces the explorations of Frenchmen Ernest Doudart de Lagr e, Francis Garnier, Henri Mouhot, and Auguste Pavie, revealing that they sought a navigable trading route into China. Though the French were originally interested in the Mekong solely as a trade route, some explorers became fascinated by the detailed temples and religious traditions of Asian culture itself. Osborne is not very effective when attempting to link early and modern history by describing the problems that occurred in times of war, in the 1950s and throughout the 1970s, for example, when the depletion of forests, extensive flooding, and the erosion of topsoil became political issues. Still, this very readable book should be considered for adoption by academic and large public libraries.DPeggy Spitzer Christoff, Oak Park, IL
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.