20 episodes

A comprehensive narrative history of Cambodia, focusing on the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot regime, utilising extensive research and interviews with historians. 

In the Shadows of Utopia: The Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian Nightmare Lachlan Peters

    • History
    • 4.9 • 124 Ratings

A comprehensive narrative history of Cambodia, focusing on the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot regime, utilising extensive research and interviews with historians. 

    Maoism, the Great Leap Forward / Famine and the Sino-Soviet Split

    Maoism, the Great Leap Forward / Famine and the Sino-Soviet Split

    Why was one of the most prominent slogans of the Khmer Rouge about a "super great leap forward"?

    What is Maoism and why did the People's Republic of China provide a new ideological source for the world?

    Why did the USSR and the PRC split in the 1960s?

    Time Period Covered 1949 - 1962

    This episode could be considered the third instalment in the history of communist ideology of the series. Lachlan discusses the Chinese Civil War, the People's Republic of China, Mao, Maoism, the circumstances surrounding the Great Leap Forward and it's terrible consequences. This is a brief explanation of the 45 million deaths that occurred in China as a result of government policy. The Chinese communists will provide the Khmer Rouge not only with material and economic aid once they come to power, but also with an ideological framework - a program - that the Cambodians will seek to recapitulate. This is an explanation of that program, as well as another hugely important factor in the coming chaos in Indochina, the ideological schism between the USSR and the PRC known as the Sino-Soviet Split.

    Sources

    Philip Short Mao
    Julia Lovell Maoism: A Global History
    Richard Baum The Fall and Rise of China
    Frank Dikotter Mao's Great Famine

    • 2 hr 43 min
    Les Khmers Rouges: Double Lives in Sihanouk's Golden Era

    Les Khmers Rouges: Double Lives in Sihanouk's Golden Era

    How does the Communist Party of Kampuchea form? How does Saloth Sar become a married man and teacher? What are the consequences of Sihanouk’s neutral foreign policy?




    Time Period Covered 1955-1960




    As peace broke out over Cambodia in the wake of the First Indochina War, the fledgling communist movement had to learn to survive in a newly independent country under the rule of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Numbers dwindling and unable to openly resist the government, the ‘revolutionary organisation’, as they began calling themselves, found an avenue for recruits in the schools of Phnom Penh. The man who would become Pol Pot became a teacher.




    Meanwhile, in an attempt to navigate a neutral path for Cambodia in the Cold War era, Sihanouk opens relations with China as well as the United States. This agenda will have consequences, as the CIA begins trying to undermine his government and even seek his removal. The resulting “Bangkok Plot”, a series of conspiracies against him, will be explained.




    The Khmer Rouge, as Sihanouk had begun calling the communists in his country, will also meet to discuss a new kind of organisation - the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Saloth Sar, Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary will all find themselves in high-ranking positions as the seeds of their revolution are sewn.

    Sources

    Philip Short Pol Pot: History of a Nightmare
    David Chandler The Tragedy of Cambodian History, Brother Number One
    Ben Kiernan How Pol Pot Came to Power
    Milton Osbourne Sihanouk
    Elizabeth Becker When the War was Over
    Norodom Sihanouk My War with the CIA
    Peter Froberg Idling Song for an Approaching Storm
    Craig Etcheson Overview of Hierarchy of Democratic Kampuchea

    Show Content
    https://www.shadowsofutopia.com/dramatis-personae.html

    • 2 hr 7 min
    S1: Season One Recap - Cambodian History from Angkor to Independence

    S1: Season One Recap - Cambodian History from Angkor to Independence

    This bonus episode is for those who would like to remind themselves of the topics covered in the first season of the podcast, or for new listeners who might want a simple overview of Cambodian history as it relates to the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge.

    This is an introduction to the themes of the series as a whole, the aims of the podcast, the Khmer Empire, the conditions relating to Cambodia's modernity and the French colonial period. The growth of nationalism, the events of the Second World War and efforts toward independence, including the early stages of a Cambodian communist movement are also revisited.

    Support

    Interview

    • 1 hr 6 min
    The End of French Indochina: Dien Bien Phu, Geneva and “Citizen Sihanouk”

    The End of French Indochina: Dien Bien Phu, Geneva and “Citizen Sihanouk”

    How does the First Indochina War end? What do the Geneva Accords mean for Cambodia? Who wins the 1955 Cambodian general election?




    Time Period Covered December 1953 – July 1955




    Cambodia faces Viet Minh assaults around the country as the First Indochina War comes to its climax, but the French will suffer their most stunning defeat at Dien Bien Phu. World powers will convene to find a solution to the conflict. The resulting ‘peace’ will marginalise the Cambodian communist movement at the expense of the Vietnamese one, and Sihanouk will create a new political movement.  





    Google Maps View of Dien Bien Phu

    Support the show





    Sources




    Philip Short Pol Pot: History of a Nightmare
    David Chandler The Tragedy of Cambodian History
    Ben Kiernan How Pol Pot Came to Power
    Milton Osbourne Sihanouk
    Christopher Goscha Vietnam: A New History

    • 2 hr 37 min
    Sihanouk’s Royal Crusade for Cambodian Independence

    Sihanouk’s Royal Crusade for Cambodian Independence

    How does Cambodian Independence day originate in November 1953? What does the First Indochina War look like in Cambodia? How does a young Pol Pot 'join the maquis'?

    Time Period Covered January – December 1953

    This episode explains the actions of King Sihanouk that one French General declared were ‘that of a madman, but a madman of genius’. Almost out of the blue the Cambodian king will claim independence for his country and end almost a century of French colonial rule. Meanwhile, the First Indochina War will bring its ruin to the Cambodian countryside and Saloth Sar will join the communist struggle against the French in the jungles.

    Sources
    Philip Short Pol Pot: History of a Nightmare
    David Chandler The Tragedy of Cambodian History
    Milton Osbourne Sihanouk
    Christopher Goscha Vietnam A New History
    Ben Kiernan Viet Nam
    Edward Miller ​The Vietnam War

    Support
    https://www.shadowsofutopia.com/support.html

    • 1 hr 37 min
    Pol Pot in Paris and the Khmer Issarak – Part Two

    Pol Pot in Paris and the Khmer Issarak – Part Two

    How did the First Indochina War become part of the Cold War? When did the Khmer students studying in Paris become communists? What influenced Saloth Sar to become a revolutionary?

    Time Period Covered 1947-1953

    This episode explains the way that the first ‘Vietnam War’ began developing into something recognisably part of the Cold War. We also trace the path of the young Pol Pot as his studies in Paris become influenced by a rising influence of communism. Cambodian politics and the return of Son Ngoc Thanh will produce a change in the rule of King Sihanouk, and the early developments of what will be the Khmer Rouge’s ideology begin taking shape. The Viet Minh dissolve the 'Indochinese Communist Party' into discrete parties based on national lines, and the Khmer People's Revolutionary Party is formed - the organisation that will eventually become the Communist Party of Kampuchea and the Khmer Rouge.

    Sources
    ​Philip Short Pol Pot: History of a Nightmare
    David Chandler The Tragedy of Cambodian History
    Milton Osbourne Sihanouk
    Ben Kiernan ​How Pol Pot Came to Power
    Edward Miller ​The Vietnam War

    Support
    https://www.shadowsofutopia.com/support.html

    • 2 hr 35 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
124 Ratings

124 Ratings

André Joseph Berjoan ,

Meticulously constructed story arc, rivetingly delivered

A comprehensive survey of Cambodian history, powerfully and engagingly related, driving with inexorable narrative force toward the Khmer Rouge revolution of 1975-1979. This podcast is an indispensable and illuminating companion to all the books and movies one may be going through to understand what remains a singular, and singularly horrifying, event in 20th-century history. Lachlan Peters serves it all up with deep research, a methodical presentation, and appealing aplomb. This is a landmark undertaking, inspired by and — in its importance — akin to the magisterial work of David Chandler.

Gnome chopper ,

Sound

Good podcast but bad sound. Somewhat unclear and volume issues.

TarzanLOTJ ,

Mr Rogers discusses Pol Pot

Methodical, thorough, professional and always interesting, Dr Peters presents a complex and difficult subject that has many lessons for today’s world. He’s as good as Dan Carlin(!), but less military-centric and less caffeinated. His calm, measured lecture style belies a strong interest in the subject, in getting the history right, and in examining long-arc trends and causes rather than just names and dates.

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