The history of Southeast Asia -- especially mainland Southeast Asia -- has been written as a history of kings and states. The modern states of Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam thread their way back into the past, and the emergence of these states, the importance of their capitals, and the power of their dynasties have been the dominant themes of the history of the region. This collection of essays challenges this perspective. Taken together, they question how powerful the great centers and their rulers really were. The authors shift the focus to smaller settlements and more peripheral communities, looking at the capitals and the central authority from this viewpoint. They react against the modern impulse to look at the commonalities of the region and instead concentrate on the variety. The result is an intimate and unusual view of historical Southeast Asia as a society of cosmopolitan cities, mobile communities, and fluid local politics. Essays consider Pegu, Arakan, Phuket, the Vietnamese port city of Hoi An, the eastern Martaban Bay port cities, and the Orang Laut and the Malay kingdoms of Melaka and Johor.
The contributors are Sunait Chutintaranond, Tun Aung Chain, Jacques P. Leider, Dhiravat na Pombejra, Nguyen Chi Thong, and Chuleeporn Virunha.