Angkor: And the Khmer Civilization

Michael D. Coe

Thames and Hudson 2003
A book review by Danny Yee © 2009
The core of Angkor and the Khmer Civilization focuses on the classical civilisation of Angkor, which was the leading power in mainland Southeast Asia from 802 to 1327. A chapter on political history covers the vicissitudes of its wars and successions, but also the construction of temples, in the Angkor area and elsewhere. And a chapter on cultural and social history looks at everyday life, administration and law, arts and entertainment, and so forth. The sixteen pages of colour photographs are mostly devoted to buildings, landscapes and inscriptions from the Angkor complex.

The other chapters extend this to a general history of Cambodia and Khmer civilization. As general background, Coe describes the "rediscovery" of Angkor and the history of archaeological work on it, and provides information about flora and fauna and peoples and languages. He covers prehistory and the "early kingdoms" period of "Funan", Oc-Eo, and Angkor Borei, and includes brief introductions to Hinduism and Buddhism. And a final chapter covers post-Classic history down to the colonial period.

Coe is a historian but not a Cambodia specialist — he is best known for his work on the Maya. At this level of detail that is not a real disadvantage and Angkor is a nice synthesis, an informative work which packs in a lot of detail but which is also a lot of fun to read. Extensive illustrations — black and white photographs and maps as well as the colour plates — help to make it attractive as well. I highly recommend Angkor: And the Khmer Civilization for anyone after a short history of pre-colonial Cambodia.

December 2009

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%T Angkor
%S And the Khmer Civilization
%A Coe, Michael D.
%I Thames and Hudson
%D 2003
%O paperback, colour photographs, index
%G ISBN 0500284423
%P 240pp