Every now and again a book comes along that “shakes foundations”, as it were. Such volumes let us know that something novel has appeared on the scene, in terms of new ways of knowing the shape and landscape of the past, the great “undiscovered country” of the proverb. Strange Parallels – not one book, but two – is this kind of project. In an age of hyperbole it is easy to believe the breathless hype of publishers when they tell us, the reading public, that such work has arrived. Many of us often end up feeling deflated, though, when the volume finally gets to our desks. On occasion, though, such books do live up to the praise, and happily this is the case with Victor Lieberman's absorbing two volumes. Lieberman is a well-respected historian of Burma; in recent years, his tastes have been ranging further afield, however, as he has sought to connect Burma to larger stories and themes. Strange Parallels is the result of that philandering eye, an occasion when infidelity of one's locus of choice cannot only be forgiven, but applauded because of the result. Lieberman did not just covet his neighbors in this exercise – Siam and Vietnam and the other polities of mainland Southeast Asia. He ended up coveting Eurasia, or the expanse of an entire continent. What happens when you marry a very specific area studies expertise to this kind of vastly expanded vision? What paradigms can be shifted, and what new patterns can be seen? Perhaps most importantly, what new things can be discerned about the “undiscovered country” of the past that previously were hidden, even to cognoscenti?

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