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Everyone lived in fear: Malaya and the British way of counter-insurgency'

Hack, Karl (2012). Everyone lived in fear: Malaya and the British way of counter-insurgency'. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 23(4-5) pp. 671–699.

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Recent research on Palestine, Kenya, and Malaya has emphasised the coercive nature of ‘Britain’s dirty wars’. Abuses have been detailed and a selfcongratulatory Cold War-era account of British counter-insurgency – as ‘winning hearts and minds’ and using minimum force – subjected to intensifying attack. The result has been a swing from over sanitised narratives of the primacy of ‘winning hearts and minds’, towards revisionist accounts of relentless coercion, the narrowly coercive role of the army, and of widespread abuses. This article argues that, if Malaya is anything to go by, the essence of Cold War-era British counter-insurgency victories lay neither in ‘winning hearts and minds’ per se, nor in disaggregated and highly coercive tactics per se. Rather, it lay in population and spatial control in the which the interaction of both was embedded. In Malaya British tactics during the most critical campaign phases counterpoised punitive and reward aspects of counter-insurgency, in order to persuade people’s minds to cooperate, regardless of what hearts felt. This article thus makes the case for avoiding artificial contrasts between ‘winning hearts and minds’ and a ‘coercive’ approach, and instead for a new orthodoxy focusing on their roles within the organising framework at play during successful phases of counter-insurgency.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2012 Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1743-9558
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Not SetNot SetBritish Academy
Extra Information: Special Issue: British Ways of Counter-Insurgency: A Historical Perspective
Keywords: insurgency; counter-insurgency; Malaya; population control; winning hearts and minds
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > History, Religious Studies, Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Item ID: 34765
Depositing User: Karl Hack
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2012 13:16
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2016 06:02
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