Grant Evans has advised me that his important Short History of Laos: The Land in Between has been tranlated into Lao and Thai:

A Lao translation of Grant Evans’ Short History of Laos: The Land in Between has just been published by Silkworm Books. The translation and printing of the book was supported by a grant from the Swedish Embassy in Vientiane. It is now available for 350 baht. The Preface to the Lao edition is reproduced below. As it points out, parts of the book have been updated, and compared to the English version the post 1975 period is divided into two chapters, with a chapter headed ‘Post-Socialism’ being added. With the unofficial advice of Lao colleagues some sections have also been cut. A Thai edition whose translation and publication by Silkworm was supported by the Toyota Foundation appeared last month and is also available for 350 baht.


Not long after the English edition of this book appeared in 2002 a review was published on the front page of the Vientiane Times calling for a Lao version. Well, here it is, and I hope Lao readers enjoy it.

I have revised the book a little because some new information has become available about the distant past, and also time has moved on and demands to be included in the narrative; the historic ASEAN meeting in November 2004, for example.

The writing of history is an unfinished task, always open to revision. No single person or political party can claim to possess the truth about the past. For a start it is simply too vast and complex. Furthermore, it requires a great deal of painstaking work by many people researching particular periods and events before we can hope to really understand. Only through an ongoing dialogue among all of these researchers can we come to a better understanding of Laos’ past.

This book is a contribution to that dialogue. No doubt some of the views expressed in the following pages will come as a shock to younger readers who have grown up under the LPDR and have been presented with only one view of contemporary Lao history. Some will probably reject what I write outright. Others may be convinced by only some of my interpretations. And some may take up the challenge to think about Lao history in a new way. My main hope for the book is that it will provoke thought and debate about the Lao past, and spur younger well-educated people to carry out further in-depth research.

Indeed, the field is wide open because there is very little original research on almost any period of Lao history, from the time of Fa Ngum right up to the present. The one exception is the disproportionate attention that has been given to the Chao Anou war with Siam 1827-28, important as this event is. But the economy and society under Chao Anou’s rule, for instance, has not been properly researched. Only recently has a Japanese scholar (Masuhara 2003) produced an economic history of the Lane Xang period, and more work could be done. There is no economic history of the modern period. Also, for example, we still do not have a good history of the French period in Laos, whereas splendid histories of French colonialism have been written for both Cambodia and Vietnam. Given this lack of research a Short History like this book can only offer the tentative conclusions reached by historians up to this point in time.

The book is also intended for Lao overseas for whom the reading of English is still difficult. Hopefully the book will also provide them with a fresh look at Lao history and give them more confidence to discuss Lao history not only with their children, but with the people around them in their adopted lands.

For Lao history is indeed fascinating.

Grant Evans, Hong Kong, April 2005.