Winning ‘hearts and minds’? From imperialism to independence in Malaya

Aaron Edwards

in Defending the realm

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780719084416
Published online May 2013 | | DOI:
Winning ‘hearts and minds’? From imperialism to independence in Malaya

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Malaya is often lauded as Britain's model counter-insurgency campaign in the post-war period. But what was the army's actual role in the Malaya campaign? Why did the Briggs plan fail? What made Templer's strategy succeed? Did the term ‘hearts and minds’ actually relate to a more coercive strategy than previously thought? In countering Communist insurgents several senior British officers considered the campaign to be an integral part of a much broader confrontation with the Soviet Union, wherein the latter became the vanguard for spreading the tentacles of communism across the world. Communist subversion in the Cold War preoccupied some of the most distinguished minds at the time, including Sir Robert Thompson, and drove them to consider a range of options for defeating insurgency it with other instruments of national power such as socio-economic development, an effective judicial system, and the strategic use of military force. This chapter also investigates the nature of the relationship between Prime Minister Winston Churchill, his Colonial Secretary Oliver Lyttelton and prominent military commanders Bernard Montgomery, John Harding and Gerald Templer, asking how crucial political support in London was to ensuring a successful outcome to the Malayan Emergency.

Keywords: Communism; Insurgency; Robert Thompson; Briggs Plan; Gerald Templer; Intelligence

Chapter.  12210 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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