How Pol Pot Came to Power

Colonialism, Nationalism, and Communism in Cambodia, 1930–1975; Second Edition

Ben Kiernan

View Inside Price: $32.00


August 11, 2004
488 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300102628
Paper

How did Pol Pot, a tyrant comparable to Hitler and Stalin in his brutality and contempt for human life, rise to power? This authoritative book explores what happened in Cambodia from 1930 to 1975, tracing the origins and trajectory of the Cambodian Communist movement and setting the ascension of Pol Pot’s genocidal regime in the context of the conflict between colonialism and nationalism. A new preface bring this edition up to date.

Praise for the first edition:
“Given the highly secretive nature of Pol Pot’s activities, the precise circumstances and manoeuvres that propelled him to the top of the heap will perhaps never be known. But Kiernan has come impressively close to it. . . . And he has presented it in a wide perspective, drawing interesting comparisons with communist movements in Indonesia, Thailand, Burma and India. . . . Incisive.”—T. J. S. George, Asiaweek, “Editor’s Pick of the Month”

“A rich, gruesome and compelling tale. . . fascinating, well-researched and measured . . . a model of judgement and scholarship.”—Fred Halliday, New Statesman

“[Kiernan’s] capacity for dogged research on three continents, and his mastery of every ideological nuance. . . [are] awe-inspiring.”—Dervla Murphy, Irish Times

Ben Kiernan is the A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History, professor of international and area studies, and the founding director of Yale’s Cambodian Genocide Program and Genocide Studies Program (www.yale.edu/gsp). Other books by the author include, Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur and The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975–1979, published by Yale University Press.

“Given the highly secretive nature of Pol Pot’s activities, the precise circumstances and manoeuvres that propelled him to the top of the heap will perhaps never be known. But Kiernan has come impressively close to it. . . . And he has presented it in a wide perspective, drawing interesting comparisons with communist movements in Indonesia, Thailand, Burma and India. . . . Incisive.”—T. J. S. George, Asiaweek, “Editor’s Pick of the Month”







“A rich, gruesome and compelling tale. . . fascinating, well-researched and measured. . . a model of judgement and scholarship.”—Fred Halliday, New Statesman

“[Kiernan’s] capacity for dogged research on three continents, and his mastery of every ideological nuance. . . [are] awe-inspiring.”—Dervla Murphy, Irish Times

“This is the best accounting of how mythological history and intellectual Marxism came together to produce one of the twentieth-century’s worse catastrophes. Mythology, nationalism, and intellectualized theology are still producing disasters, so this book has general implications too.”—Daniel Chirot, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington

"Pol Pot remains . . . as mysterious and enigmatic a figure as ever. Scholars—notably Ben Kiernan . . . are still trying to piece together the story of his life and his revolutionary career, so much of which is obscure, because, as Kiernan points out, ‘his rise... took place in a climate of uncertainty and terror’. . . . Ironically, the heavy American bombing of 1973, which destroyed a significant number of Communist troop units, also drove fresh village volunteers into the ranks, and so played into the hands of the extremists and helped seal the moderates’ doom."—Robert Shaplen, New Yorker

"The leading historians of the period, Michael Vickery (Cambodia 1975-1982) and Ben Kiernan (How Pol Pot Came to Power), have both demonstrated, for example, the gradations and variations in hardship and terror."—Barbara Crossette, New York Times Book Review

"This is the story of the rise of the most terrible revolutionary movement in history, the Khmer Rouge. . . . It is a monumental piece of research, scrupulously documented and based mainly on original sources."—Chris Mullin, Tribune

"Kiernan has used his information to the full. . . . The story becomes increasingly compelling. . . . Kiernan’s work on recent events in Cambodia is well-known and respected; the book should be read by those who wish to be informed."—Judith M. Jacob, British Book News

"An immensely complex history . . . likely to be as nearly definitive an account as possible. . . . It is no small achievement of Dr. Kiernan’s that he has been able to chart the changing relationships in place and time as well as in the context of external forces, and then bring together a coherent account of how Pol Pot’s faction assumed its determinant control."—Philip Windsor, The Listener

"A scholarly attempt to come to grips with the reality behind the images. . . . A valuable addition to the literature of a difficult subject, by a scholar who has taken his task seriously. . . . His study of the Pol Pot period itself is something to look forward to."—R. B. Smith, Times Literary Supplement

"Valuable. . . . Mr. Kiernan is a meticulous Australian scholar."—Alexander MacLeod, BBC World Service

"Ben Kiernan has clearly delineated, through a mass of well-researched material, all the fatal gaps and flaws in the Khmer Rouge’s historical formation."—John Gittings, Inside Asia

"An invaluable source of information on Khmer communism."—Bangkok Post

"Goes a long way towards penetrating the mystery of the Khmer Rouge [and]sheds new light on the shadowy Pol Pot."—Asiaweek "Editor’s Pick of the Month."

"A book that will remain for a long time a standard reference.”—Economic Times (India)

"A major tour de force. . . . The first comprehensive account of the history of communism in Cambodia from 1930 to 1975. . . . Quite clearly Kiernan’s massive history will remain the major source on the development of Cambodian communism for years to come."—Review of the Asian Studies Association of Australia

"The mass of evidence brought to bear makes the main lines of the argument convincing [and] give a tremendous richness to the story."—Journal of Contemporary Asia

"A serious, patiently done history of Khmer revolutionary politics before and during the Vietnam War. . . . [A] aluable contribution. [Kiernan]should be encouraged to do a second volume, picking up from 1975."—Indochina Chronology

"There is no better account of how Brother No. 1 and his cohorts came to power, or of why they should not have. With a feeling of immense gloom, one keenly awaits Kiernan’s next volume about how they operated when they got there."—The Australian

"The benchmark for all future discussions of Khmer communism."—Melbourne Age

"A smooth, scholarly, compelling read."—Melbourne Sun

"A book of quality."—Sydney Morning Herald

"An expert, objective account."—Monash Reporter

"Compulsory reading for anyone who is interested in Indochinese politics."—Reprint Bulletin

“This work is suitable for advanced undergraduates and particularly for graduate level courses on Mainland Southeast Asia in the latter half of the twentieth century. Kiernan clearly demonstrates the complexity of post World War II Southeast Asia in a way that should inspire students to question any simplistic depiction of the situation the United States choose to involve itself in.”—C. Michele Thompson, Southern Connecticut State University, Dept. of History

“This is an important event in Southeast Asian and even world history, not just in Cambodian history. Kiernan’s achievement in piecing together its trajectory still impresses me deeply, every time I come back to the book.”—Charles Wheeler, UC-Irvine

Blood and Soil
A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur

Ben Kiernan

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The Pol Pot Regime
Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-79, Third Edition

Ben Kiernan

View details