Since the Second World War the nine nations of Southeast Asia have gradually shaken off the cloak of centuries and emerged as independent states. (Thailand was the only exception to the entrenched colonial rule.) The magic word independence has not been an open sesame to democracy, nor in general to any political or economic stability. It has however fostered feelings of nationalism that override the governmental chaos without curing it. This Asian scholar recounts fully the individual historical developments, political somersaults and economic status of the Philippines, Malaya, Burma, Indonesia, Thailand and South Vietnam. Marginal mention falls to North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Some countries show promise of political stability (Philippines, Malaya); some are creeping under the Communist wing (Indochina); others seem prone to the coup-after-coup method of change in government. All have economic problems that underlie the political and must be dealt with, if bedlam is not to drive the country centuries backwards in development (e.g., Indonesia). On the whole this study might have been more rewarding and less repetitious if each country were handled but once and in its entirety, instead of several times under different topics. Still the historical and descriptive facts are carefully recorded and the picture is as up-to-date as is possible with this important, but unpredictable, section of the world. Good objective summary from afar.