The existence of Laos today is taken for granted. But the crystallization of a Lao national idea and ultimate independence for the country was a long and uncertain process. This book examines the process through which Laos came into existence under French colonial rule through to the end of World War II. In so doing, the book charts the emergence of a notion of a specifically Lao cultural identity that served to buttress Laos as a separate ‘Lao space’, both in relation to Siam/Thailand and within French Indochina. Based on an impressive variety of primary sources, many of them never before used in studies of Lao nationalism, this book makes a significant contribution to Lao historical studies and to the study of nation-building in Southeast Asia.