"Truth of any kind is food for the soul."

The Rev. Jesse Caswell, 1841

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Seventh-Day Adventist Beginnings in Siam

At the moment, almost all of my library on Thai church history is still in Thailand while I'm in the U.S., so my resources for things like dates and names and events are mostly limited to what I remember or can find online.  According to Wikipedia (here), Seventh-day Adventist work began in Siam in 1919.  If so, that makes a long article written in 1918 on the potential of the mission field in Siam of some historical significance.  The article is entitled simply, "Siam,"  It is found under the heading, "Unentered Regions," in the publication Asiatic Division Outlook 7, 14-15 (1 August 1918): 2-4 and is followed by a second article entitled, "Facts Concerning Siam," pages 4-6. The main article is primarily a summary of Protestant church history in Siam that ends with a rosy picture of the evangelistic opportunities of the Siam field.  The article in and of itself is not particularly noteworthy other than its connection with the beginnings of Seventh-day work in Thailand.

Researchers interested in Seventh-day Adventist beginnings in Siam should note that the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference Archives online has a set of pdf files for  Asiatic Division Outlook for the years 1912-1930 (here) as well as a long list of other historical resources.  I don't know what all is in there, but a very quick look did produce an article (here) by V. L. Beecham, "Siam, the Land of the Yellow Robe," ADO, 12 17 (1 September 1923): 7.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Baptist Magazines

One of the richest sources of information on 19th century Protestant missions in Siam is found in the American religious press.  Every denomination had its flagship publication dedicated to publishing articles on overseas mission work and letters from missionaries serving "on the mission field."  Many states had their own denominational magazine or newsletter that provided coverage more focused on local missionaries.  Every year, more and more of these publications are becoming available online, if in often confusing combinations of websites, some here and some there, some have this year and some have that.

For those interested in 19th century Baptist missions, including the one in Siam, one source for relevant mission publications is a list of "Baptist Magazines and Journals from Google Books" found at the Baptist History Homepage.  The list includes publications dedicated to reporting on  missions, and researchers will also do well to check out the general publications as well, which often contain news from the mission fields.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Reader Statistics

The year isn't quite over, but nearly enough so that looking at some of the statistics for herbswanson.com is worth a gander.  As of this morning, December 26, 2012, a total of 6,035 individuals stopped by for visits ranging from less than 30 seconds (87.8%) to 15 minutes or more (6.4%).  The modest number of those staying more than 15 minutes reminds us of something we already know: Thai church history is not one of your big ticket fields of study.  Still, while I'm glad to have folks drop in for any length of time, the website is "here" for that 6.4% who are finding something here worth lingering over.  Otherwise, as I look at the various stats available for this website, it is clear that my frequent visits for updating and adding to its contents seriously skews the results.  Nevertheless, it is also clear that this website is being sufficiently used to encourage me to keep on keeping on with it.  I don't expect to set the world on fire with what has become my avocation, the ongoing study of Thai church history and making the results of that study available to others.  So, to those who share my interest in the church's past in Thailand, I wish you all a happy 2013.  Blessings, Herb

Friday, December 14, 2012

CCT Youth: A Survey

Over the years, Dr. Philip Hughes of the Christian Research Association, Melbourne, and I have worked with each other on a number of projects and otherwise consulted with each other on others  I recently rediscovered an English-language draft of a report on youth in the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) that I evidently commented on for Philip, which report has since sat unnoticed in my files from my Thailand days.  It is entitled, "A Survey of Christian Youth Related to The Church of Christ in Thailand (A Draft)," and was written in 2006.  As best as Philip can remember, this paper was a draft for a report published in Thai, and it has never been available in its original English version.  It deserves to be available, and now is at "An English-Language Bibliography of Materials Related to Christianity in Thailand."  The report provides well-documented insights into the beliefs, attitudes, values, and experiences of young people related to the CCT that are not available anywhere else in English.  It is a welcome addition to the small (but growing) "stable" of resources housed on herbswanson.com.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Notes for the Bibliography of Christianity in Thailand

"An English-Language Bibliography of Materials Related to Christianity in Thailand" is in some ways the main attraction of this website.  I wish I remembered more about its inception, which was in about 2002 or 2003—although I may have had the beginnings of it sitting in my computer at home before that.  The original motivation for the bibliography was simply to make the many historical resources I was aware of available to others.    The history of Christianity in Thailand always was and forever will be a very small academic field, as such things go, and not a particularly honorable one.  But, it has its uses, and it needed and continues to need a guide to the resources from which it is discovered.  That is the single most important reason for its existence.  It also, however, functions as something of a map of the field.  It reveals, for example, that a cottage industry of evangelical researchers has grown up in the last twenty to thirty years, many of their theses and other workds dedicated to figuring out how to better communicate the Christian message in Thailand.  It also suggests how little interested secular academics remain in the field, with exceptions of course.

When I began the bibliography, I depended mostly on hardcopies of everything, whether it be the actual sources or bibliographies of research materials.  I remember investing a good deal of time visiting repositories in Thailand and in the U.S. collecting entries for the bibliography.  More recently, I have come to depend almost entirely on the Internet to discover new sources for the study of Christianity in Thailand.  I make use particularly of the amazing amount of data found at OCLC's online catalog, WorldCat, and also on Google Books, and what has happened is that one source often leads to another.  Sometimes there is a bit of detective work involved, and as the Web has expanded I spend an increased amount of time checking to see if entires are available online.  Since 2010, the aspect of the bibliography that has grown the most has been the links to online copies of entries.  The Web is all but destroying the concept of "rare books," at least so far as the study of Christianity in Thailand is concerned.

My goal is still completeness, which is obviously impossible, but which also keeps me searching for new entries.

One of the trickiest parts of maintaining the bibliography is deciding what should be included and what not.  At first, I restricted it to Protestant materials with a bias toward the Church of Christ in Thailand and the overseas missions that work with it.  I think that bias has largely been overcome, and in 2010 I decided to include what Catholic entries I could find.  I admit that Thai Catholicism remains seriously under represented here, in spite of my efforts to locate Catholic materials.  Today, I usually include any work that is about or contains important information about Christianity in Thailand.  I sometimes will not include a source if I am not sure that my bibliographic information is correct or if I feel that the source isn't important enough for inclusion.  It is a subjective standard, I happily admit, which I compensate for by being fairly broad in my judgment of what is important.  In any event, virtually anything from the 19th century will end up on the bibliography if it is relevant.  A six page booklet published in 1950 probably will, but one published in 2000 almost certainly will not.

Until very recently, I included notations on where I found the source, which made sense when I was going around to libraries searching out hardcopies of the items.  I have dropped those notations because they make less and less sense in the Digital Age.  Bibliography users can search the Web themselves for the location of any resource they find here.  All it takes is to plug the name of the item and/or the author's name into a search engine.

My goal is also perfection, but that is still more impossible than completeness.  I wish I could say that every entry is accurate, but I know that isn't the case.  Every once in awhile, I find a name misspelled or an incorrect publication date.  Some entries are not complete because I cannot locate complete bibliographic information on them.  I periodically check links, but inevitably there will be some dead ones.  I try to keep the entries as uniform as possible but know that I've done the same thing one way once and another way the second time.  The goal of perfection, however, is like the goal of completeness: it keeps me working on the bibliography.

One of the joys of working on the bibliography is the discovery of sources that I had no idea existed.  In a few cases, I am beginning to 'house" documents on this website that I think are important but not otherwise available on the web.  For example, I recently came across a very important essay in English by the Thai father of Pentecostalism in Thailand, Boon Mark Gittisarn entitled, "What Modernism Has Done to Presbyterian Missions in Siam," and was able to get a scanned copy from the one library in the world that is known to have a copy of it (in South Africa).

Finally and as a point of interest, a rough-and-ready count of the entries in the "General References" section of the bibliography on 23 August 2014 showed a total of 879 citations, which I am sure is not exact but very close.

If you have used the bibliography and found it helpful, you might drop me a line at herbswanson@frontier.com and let me know.  It is always encouraging to hear from those who have used the bibliography.  In any event, Peace, Herb

Monday, December 3, 2012

Presbyterian Missionaries in Context

The historical study of Christianity in northern Thailand lacks for focused investigations of the role of the Presbyterian missionaries in 19th and early 20th century "modernization," so called.  The missionaries frequently claimed for themselves a major role in what they called the "civilization" (by which they meant most specifically the Americanization) of the North, and there is some reason to think that they did play an important role in introducing the North to the influences of Europe and the United States.  Ian Bushell's M.A. thesis, "Merchants and Missionaries: the Place of the Lanna States of Siam in the Informal Empire of Great Britain Between 1883 and 1921." puts the missionaries into the larger context of events in the North, showing how their activities meshed with those of other Westernizing forces in the North.  To date, however, this study hasn't been available more widely.  With the author's permission, it now "resides" on herbswanson.com and is so available.