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Asian and Pacific History

Gain insight into Asian and Pacific history, which covers the region sometimes also known as Asia and Oceania, including Central Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the island nations of Australia and New Zealand. This region is the birthplace of two of the world’s major religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, while Confucianism would become influential in China.

One of the earliest civilizations of this area was the Indus Valley Civilization, or Harappan Civilization, which emerged during the fourth millennium BCE in present-day Pakistan and northwest India. Another important empire of the premodern era is the Mauryan Empire, which dominated the Indian subcontinent between 321 BCE and 185 BCE as one of the largest empires in the world. During this same period, the Qin Dynasty was able to create a unified China by conquering the independent states in the north, which was succeeded relatively quickly by the more powerful Han Dynasty. Their dominance was challenged by the Xiongnu Empire to the north, in present-day Mongolia, which would eventually become the far-larger Mongol Empire under the leadership of Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century CE.

The Mongol Empire dominated Asian history during the Middle Ages (ca. 500–1500), as it expanded to become the largest contiguous land empire the world had known. The sheer size of the realm, combined with its relative religious tolerance and facilitated by a network of trading routes known collectively as the Silk Road, allowed for the ready exchange of technology and ideas, including Chinese gunpowder and movable type. By the early modern period (1500­–1800), however, the empire’s subjects began to rebel. In China, the ethnic Chinese Ming Dynasty overthrew the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. In India, the Mughal (Mongol) Empire remained in nominal control until 1858, although their power was supplanted before then by the British East India Company.


European influence in the region wasn’t not limited to British-controlled India. Both the Portuguese and the Dutch competed to monopolize trade in Indonesia, while the British established a colony on the coast of Australia in 1788. Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia all became colonies of France. Even countries that weren’t not directly colonized found themselves forced to engage with the West on unfavorable terms, as was the case with Japan, which was forced from its isolationist policy to open trade by a U.S. gunship in 1854. China had a similar confrontation with the British, who initiated the Opium Wars between 1839 and 1860 in order to force China to agree to its trade terms. The Chinese rebelled against Western influence during the Boxer Rebellion (1898–1901).

Russia was also a major player in the region, as the massive country vied with the British for control. The British invaded Afghanistan in 1837 and again in 1878, in the Anglo-Afghan wars, in an attempt to create a buffer state between its holdings in India and the Russian Empire. When Russia began to make inroads into East Asia, particularly Korea, Japan launched the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), successfully putting a halt to Russian advancement. As the first Asian country to defeat a European power, Japan emerged as a major power on the world stage.

World War II weakened European control of countries in Asia. Nationalist uprisings in the region led to the independence of several nations, most notably India in 1947, which had partitioned into the Muslim-majority Pakistan and the Hindu-majority India. The violence that accompanied the partition set the stage for acrimonious relations between the two countries, which that would extend into the twenty-first century, particularly as each nation contested ownership of the region of Kashmir.

But even as the West relinquished direct control in Asia, the region became a battleground for ideological control between the Communist Soviet Union and the United States. The Soviet Union had a powerful ally in China, which had been ruled by the Communist Party since 1949. The Korean War, in which the Soviet-controlled North Korea attempted to unify the country by invading the South in 1950, included Chinese soldiers fighting alongside North Korean soldiers, with backing by the Soviet Union against a coalition of U.S. and South Korean soldiers. The war was essentially fought to a standstill, ending in 1953.

The country of Vietnam had also divided into the Communist-controlled North and the Western-aligned South, following the ousting of the French in the First Indochina War (1946–1954). An attempt by North Vietnam to unify the country under a Communist regime resulted in the Vietnam War (1954–1975), which saw an increasing number of American troops fighting against Soviet- and Chinese-backed Vietnamese forces. South Vietnam fell to the North in 1975. The conflict in Vietnam would have devastating consequences for its neighbors, Cambodia and Laos, which came under Communist control following the U.S. withdrawal from the region; the Communist regimes in those countries implemented harsh policies that resulted in the deaths of millions of people. Meanwhile, an attempted coup by Communists in Indonesia in 1965 was successfully rebuffed, leading to the establishment of a 32-year dictatorship.

The ideological battle between communism and capitalism in Asia waned following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The break-up of the monolithic union into 15 new republics reshaped Central Asia and Eastern Europe dramatically with the creation of the new nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. These nations were now faced with the daunting task of forging new economic, political, and social systems.

Elsewhere in Asia, the fall of the Soviet Union resulted in a shift from military power to economic power. The economic powerhouses known as the Asian Tigers (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong) that had built their economies on strong exports to the West starting in the 1960s were now joined by China and India in aggressively seeking international trade relations and liberalizing their economies. China became the world’s largest exporter, although criticism of its trade policies would lead U.S. President Donald Trump to impose stiff tariffs on China in a trade war during the late 2010s.

Asian countries such as Afghanistan and North Korea, which that had relied on Soviet support during the Cold War, found themselves isolated or embroiled in a power vacuum that left them vulnerable to terrorist influences. In the case of Afghanistan, its harboring of terrorists following the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 resulted in a U.S. invasion and occupation that continued as of 2019.

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Asian and Pacific History Resources

Gale provides scholarly resources, including databasesprimary source archives, and eBooks, to advance researchers' studies.


Gale databases offer researchers access to credible, historical articles from Asian collections, including full-text articles covering many history topics, from newspapers, articles, journals, and more, aligned with lesson plans for teaching and guides for additional research.

Primary Source Archives

Gale Primary Sources contains full-text archives and digitized literature that provide researchers with firsthand articles from Chinese history primary sources to drive research at your university.

Gale eBooks

Gale offers a variety of publications covering a wide range of history studies topics, including the Korean War, Japanese American imprisonment, and more. Users can add Gale eBooks to a customized collection and cross-search to pinpoint relevant content. Workflow tools help users easily share, save, and download articles.

  • Fighting for Their Country: Minorities at War: Minority Soldiers Fighting in the Korean War, 1st Edition

    Fighting for Their Country: Minorities at War: Minority Soldiers Fighting in the Korean War, 1st Edition

    Cavendish Square Publishing  |  2018  |  ISBN-13: 9781502626592

    The Korean War saw a huge shift in the way American soldiers fought. During the war, troops became wholly desegregated for the first time in the country’s history. Minority Soldiers Fighting in the Korean War traces the stories of brave minority troops, including profiles of Hispanic and African American Medal of Honor recipients. The book describes the lives of soldiers, provides an overview of the Korean War, and explains what happened in a rapidly changing America after the war’s end.

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  • Freedom's Promise: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II, 1st Edition

    Freedom's Promise: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II, 1st Edition

    Core Library  |  2020  |  ISBN-13: 9781532175664

    In 1941, Japanese forces attacked a U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Japan and other countries were fighting in World War II (1939–1945). In response to the attack, the United States entered the war. U.S. officials rounded up Japanese Americans and forced them into prison camps. This book describes the experiences of Japanese Americans and the effects of their imprisonment. Easy-to-read text, vivid images, and helpful back matter give readers a clear look at this subject. Features include a table of contents, infographics, a glossary, additional resources, and an index. This book is aligned to Common Core Standards and correlated to state standards. Core Library is an imprint of Abdo Publishing, a division of ABDO.

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  • The Korean Economy: Six Decades of Growth and Development, 1st Edition

    The Korean Economy: Six Decades of Growth and Development, 1st Edition

    Gale Asia  |  2013  |  ISBN-13: 9789814455718

    Established in 1971, the Korea Development Institute (KDI) conducts extensive research in the social sciences. As the only policy research institute in Korea, KDI has contributed to the sustained growth of the Korean economy and society. KDI performs research on South Korea’s macroeconomy, financial and fiscal policies, social security, labor industry, trade, and law. In the 2010 “Global Go To Think Tank Rankings” by the University of Pennsylvania, KDI was recognized as one of the 75 leading think tanks in the world and the best economic research institute in Asia. Similarly, in the 2011 rankings, KDI was listed as one of the top 30 leading think tanks in Asia and also one of the top 30 think tanks globally, in categories such as “domestic economic policy,” “social policy,” “international development,” “science and technology,” and the “best government-affiliated think tank.” It was also recognized as one of the top 50 think tanks with “the greatest impact on public policy.”

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