Kuala Lumpur at War 1939-1945 is about the experience of war on Kuala Lumpur. It is not a ‘military history‘, in the sense that there was very little fighting, either when the Japanese entered the city in January 1942 or when the British returned in September 1945. Rather, the focus of the book is on how conﬂict, the Japanese occupation and the return of the British impacted on the city and its people. The three years and eight months of Japanese governance wrought huge change, and were a tilting point in the history of Malaya. As the capital city, Kuala Lumpur was a central player in these changes. This is the story of those years.
The war impacted on individuals and communities in very different ways and there was no single or uniform narrative. Rather, the war years present a hybrid of varied, complex and often contradictory experiences. For example, while one ﬂeeing British family might make it to Singapore and safety on a departing boat, others might spend the war in an internment camp, or worse, embark on a vessel sunk by the Japanese in the sea-lanes outside Singapore. Similarly, a local girl might find herself in the wrong place at the wrong time as the Japanese rounded up victims for their ‘comfort houses‘, while others would survive the war unmolested and unharmed. In general, the Japanese occupation of Kuala Lumpur is remembered for its brutality but some local residents formed close and friendly relationships with Japanese civilians stationed in the city and recall their politeness and exquisite manners. If nothing else, war is capricious.
About the author: Andrew Barber is a former British diplomat and runs AB&A, a corporate research company based in Kuala Lumpur. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, and is the author of a number of books on Malaysian history. He is married with two daughters.