To introduce this post, this photo shows the ruins at Borobudah in Indonesia. The photo is from the wikipedia article on the site. I have visited the place once as part of an official mission led by then Science Minister Barry Jones.
For the benefit of new readers, my irregular train reading series requires me to pick a book at random from my shelves that I have either not read before or, at least, not for some time. Better still, the book should be outside my current interest. Mind you, I don't always follow the rules, but nobody's perfect!
Yesterday, at random, I picked up Reginald Le May's The culture of South-East Asia (George Allen and Unwin, second impression 1956).It is, accurately, subtitled the heritage of India, with a dedication to PM Nehru. Written on the fly leaf is J P Belshaw, 2/65, Bangkok, so it was my father's. It really is a slice of history, with a focus on buildings and the visual arts.
May spent much of his working life in Siam, what we now call Thailand. From 1908 to 1922 he served in the British Consular Service in Siam 1908 to 1922, and then from 1922 to 1933 be was Economic Adviser to the Thai Government. In 1934 he retired and moved to a research fellow at Pembroke College at Oxford. From then until his death in 1972, he continued his research into the history and art of South East Asia with a special focus on the Indian links. The book I am reading was his magnum opus.
It's a very English book, you can see May sitting at his boarding house while his land lady studied one of the pieces he collected. Paraphrasing, she said "I always take my orders from him, Sir", referring to one head. "He has such authority".
May is a very learned man who managed to bring alive a past world. I realised how little I knew. I don't want to write a lot about the full book, but I am looking for a few things from it that might interest you. I want examples that will show that world in ways that will seem directly modern and relevant.