Nidhi EOSEEWONG [ Academic Prize 1999 ]
- Academic Prize 1999 [10th]
- Historian [ Professor, Chiang Mai University ]
- Thailand / History
- Born May 23, 1940 （aged59）
One of the greatest historians that Thailand has ever produced, Professor Nidhi Eoseewong is also a leading figure in the Thai intellectual circle. With his innovative concepts and methodology, he has breathed fresh life into the historiography of Thailand. It is no exaggeration to say that a significant portion of Thailand's history from Ayudhya Dynasty onward has been wholly rewritten by him. In addition to his academic activities as a historian, he continues to write witty and sensational columns on culture, politics, and society of present-day Thailand, and thus has a strong social influence.
- * At the time of receipt of the Prize.
Professor Nidhi Eoseewong is one of the greatest historians that Thailand has ever produced, and also a leading intellectual of the country. Since he obtained a teaching position at Chiang Mai University in 1966 until today, except for a brief interlude of his study in the United States to earn his doctorate, he has continued to base himself in the ancient capital of Chiang Mai, writing a series of stimulating and thought-provoking books for the people in Thailand as well as outside Thailand.
His thinking is always anchored to local culture and tradition of Chiang Mai, but at the same time it transcends locality, and hovers over an expansive terrain that encompasses issues related to the Thai nation-state, issues of cultures and nations of neighboring countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Indonesia, and even a more universal world. In his research he addresses themes that are far more extensive than what a historian is usually expected to cover, as he freely crosses the boundaries of time, going back and forth among Thailand of medieval or modern ages, present-day Thailand, and Thailand in the future.
Since the 1980s, Professor Nidhi has been energetically publishing volumes of his study on Thai history. These works, taken as a whole, are pathbreaking in that they drastically challenge the conventional views and images of Thai history which are centered around the history of changes in dynasties, and the conventional historiography which is based on the Western methodologies of historical study. For instance, in one of his masterpieces, "Pak Kai lae Bai Rua" (A Pen-point and a sailing boat, 1984), a very original work which deals with "literature and trade," he tried to corroborate the Thai society's bourgeois development in the 19th century by reading between the lines of popular poems and songs, and folklore tales of the period. His methodology of historical study is characterized by meticulous and critical reading and interpretation of various historical documents, including official documents, records kept in temples, and journals and observations by visitors from the West, but what is most remarkable about Professor Nidhi as a historian is his rich conceptive and imaginative faculty which enables him to capture the essential implications contained in historical documents and build, on the basis of such implications, a new image of history. His conceptive and imaginative gift is also evident in his other studies, including the one on the history of the Thonburi Dynasty of King Taksin, and the one on the history of the Ayudhya Dynasty of King Narai.
Subsequently, Professor Nidhi expanded his intellectual activities to the area of comment on current topics. Freely using his extensive knowledge, he writes witty and sententious articles for Thailand's leading papers and magazines, commenting on current developments in culture, politics, society, and economics. Having already published more than 10 collections of such commentary essays, he has established himself as the best known opinion leader in Thailand.
He also stands unique among Thai intellectuals in that he makes it a policy to publish the findings of his academic research and the fruits of his thinking not in English, but in Thai. This policy certainly manifests his intellectual determination to find out to what extent it will be possible to approach a universal world by means of the Thai language, and as such it has much in common with his attitude to discuss Thailand's culture, society, and the state, and the world, by basing himself in Chiang Mai.
Despite the fact that most of Professor Nidhi's works are written in Thai, his outstanding achievements and activities are highly appraised not only in Thailand, but also in Japan, Europe, and the United States. Indeed, Professor Nidhi well deserves to be awarded the Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.