The Times (of London) has a wonderful archive that allows anyone who registers to dip into the paper’s long and distinguished history. Today I had a scout around to see how useful it might be as a resource for New Mandala readers.

For starters…the archive begins in 1785.

As a result, searches for words like Burma, Thailand, Bangkok and Kachin unsurprisingly turn up all manner of interesting historical debris. A search for “Burmese” reveals that the first time the word was apparently used in The Times was 17 July 1824, soon after the proclamation (free registration required) of what we now call the First Anglo-Burmese War. Unfortunately the typeface used in the really old material makes it difficult to get accurate keyword matches. In my experience, relatively unique words such as Yunnan (1829) or Myitkyina (1892) return the most promising results. Words that are easily confused when converted to plain text–and here I am thinking of words like Thai, Burman or Mandala–struggle to find clear matches.

Nonetheless an hour (or three) browsing the archives of The Times is time well spent. No matter the specific research, personal or political interest there is a great deal of fabulously accessible history that will interest New Mandala readers.

Particularly for material published in the past 100 years the keyword search function turns up a remarkable range of news reporting and other ephemera. There are seemingly hundreds of thousands of pieces in the archive that shed light on all recent periods of mainland Southeast Asian history. For instance, I couldn’t help but notice that on 19 August 1982 The Times carried a report titled “Thais alarmed at call to pray for ailing king”. As a piece of (largely forgotten?) history the article is well worth a look. So, I might add, is the report titled “Burma dissatisfied” from 25 June 1946.

This kind of history has, it is fair to say, never been easier to trawl through. Have a go…and please let us know about any mainland Southeast Asia-related gems that you find among the treasure of The Times archive.