Foreign Office Files for Southeast Asia, 1963-1980

Sources from The National Archives, UK

Explore the history of Southeast Asia from 1963-1980 through official government documents from The National Archives, UK. Discover the struggle for independence against a backdrop of conflict and a shifting political landscape.

This collection offers an insight into the significant changes that took place in Southeast Asia during 1963-1980, including the creation of Malaysia and the response to this from the wider region.

Material from The National Archives, UK covers the Cobbold Commission, the end of the Malayan Emergency and tensions between Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as rising animosity towards the perceived threat of communism at this time.

The material offers insight into the challenges faced by political leaders during this time, documenting guerrilla activity, attempted coups and financial struggles in a time of conflict. Alongside this, the region saw a movement toward industrialisation and the strengthening of political alliances, shaping the emergence of a modern Southeast Asia.

This collection consists of following material classes:

  • FO 371
  • FCO 15
  • FCO 24
  • DO 169
  • DO 187


  • Documents covering the release of the Cobbold Commission, a report by the Anglo-Malayan Commission of Enquiry which determined the support for the Federation of Malaysia
  • Annual reports detailing a general overview of trade, economy, foreign relations and events across Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines
  • Papers detailing the end of the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), including celebrations and legislative measures
  • Correspondence and reports covering trade and industry, including discussions relating to industrial protection and promotion of industry in the region
  • Material documenting propaganda and censorship of the press within Indonesia
  • FO 371 content detailing confrontations, defence strategies and the attempted coup of President Sukarno in 1965
  • Reports examining diversification of sterling reserves and economic growth in Southeast Asia

Modules include

Module Summary Date
Section I: Cold War in the Pacific, Trade Relations, and the Post-Independence Period

With material drawn from the National Archives, UK, this product provides a Western view of events in the region through official government documents and records covering the wider region and the rising animosity towards the perceived threat of communism at the time. There is a particular emphasis on the turbulent creation of Malaysia, alongside the release of the Cobbold Commission report, the end of the Malayan Emergency, and the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation.

Section II: Foundations of Economic Growth and Industrialisation

Comprising FCO 15 and 25 class government papers from The National Archives, UK, the second module of this resource traces the substantial economic and industrial growth experienced by the region during this period. There is also extensive coverage of authoritarian regimes in the Philippines and Indonesia under Presidents Marcos and Suharto respectively; the establishment of Singapore as a major world port, and political and racial tensions in the region.


Key data

Period covered


Source archive

  • The National Archives, UK
  • Communism and the communist threat
  • Tensions between Indonesia and Malaysia
  • Formation of an independent Malaysia
  • Attempted coups and guerrilla activity
  • Foreign investment and financial aid
  • Economic plans and growth
  • Industrialisation
  • Authoritarian rule
  • Correspondence
  • Reports
  • Maps
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Memoranda
  • Telegrams
  • Press releases
  • Donna Brunero, National University of Singapore
  • Marc Jason Gilbert, Hawaii Pacific University
  • Matthew Jones, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Ben Kiernan, Yale University
  • Duncan McCargo, University of Copenhagen
  • Wen-Qing Ngoei, Singapore Management University
  • Norman G Owen, University of Hong Kong
  • Business and Economics
  • East Asian Studies
  • International Relations
  • Political History and Science
  • South Asian Studies