This book is breathtaking in its sweep and coverage, not just in length. Prasenjit Basu is a Singapore-based academic and commentator who is intimately familiar with all of Asia—East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. In six well-researched chapters, with a prologue and an epilogue, it tells “Asia’s story in the 20th century”, about the post-colonial rise of a continent. There are several steps in the argument. First, “this book seeks to tell the story of the renaissance of Asia during the twentieth century”. One would expect this to be a well-chronicled tale, but it is a story that has hardly ever been told collectively. A single narrative about Asia is still considered inappropriate, because the Western media has led the world to believe that Asia is riven with deep-seated cultural differences that make it something less than a continent. Most people will instinctively accept the heterogeneity proposition. However, this is a serious book and the contention is not one that is asserted without evidence.
“The umbrellas of colonialism (and its post-colonial and Cold War effects) masked the underlying unity of the Asian continent.... The post-colonial elites were variously influenced by each of their separate colonial experiences—and only slowly rediscovered their pre-colonial entities in drawing the boundaries of Asia. In this book, I have included the countries in geographic Asia where religious pluralism is part of the current (or historic) reality.” This filters out several nations in West Asia.