“A place-name, then is a word, or word-complex, that withing one particular community– no matter whether great or small, but of a certain stability-instantly evokes the idea of one particular place through an association of contiguity.” (Olsen, 1928)
What happens if a place-name is not known or located with reference to other place-names and furthermore exists in another language such as the Thai language that cannot be readily translated.
Reading the texts from people living in an area with unknown place-names led to a the uncertainty of being in an unfamiliar or strange space without marking posts to point the way. Lost in a jungle of test the reader could only stumble without a compass.
My project based on missionary life in Thailand had not been mapped primarily because of the lack of familiar place-names and lack of expertise about the Thai language. Google Maps displayed names in Thai with only the major cities depicted in the English language.
However, I found a Wikipedia map of Thai provinces, many of which were mentioned in the oral and written text of the collection I was working with, the Landon collection. In many cases, the capital city of the province in Thailand had the same name as the province which led to easier identification. However, it was difficult to georeference the location on a google map or other map because of the Thai names.
We do now have a map although imprecise and not as scholarly as a historical map which gives some indication of the relative locations of the different cities. If locations are identified, then the history and sociology of the location can lead to other insights about authorship. Were Chinese people living in this or that particular area of Thailand? How was the author, Margaret Landon, of Anna and the King of Siam influenced by her interaction with the Chinese or other people groups?
The location of the initial inspiration for Anna and the King of Siam has now been identified using a combination of textual media and a mapping media such as Neatline. Kenneth Landon’s association with places in Thailand is also significant historically as he provided information to the U.S government about areas in Thailand that were initially invaded by the Japanese in December, 1941. A glance at the history of the Japanese invasion of Thailand indicated that Kenneth Landon had lived in most of the areas in the Thai peninsula that were invaded by the Japanese. This connection may need to be explored as Landon’s influence on the US and the allies war in the Pacific may prove to be more significant than previously thought.
More discoveries await.