Tracing the growth of capitalism in South East Asia between 1870 and 1941, this book looks at contemporary economic and political developments in the region. It focusses on three questions. Why was the indigenous capitalism so weak in colonial South East Asia? What were the institutional weaknesses in an otherwise dominant Chinese capitalist class, and why did it fail to transform itself into a modern industrial elite? What was the impact of western colonialism and Japanese economic penetration on South East Asia's prospects for achieving sustainable economic growth? It presents studies of European, Chinese, Indian and Japanese businesses, and has been based on the private archives of banks and companies.