Users' Guide

This website contains a variety of sources for the study of the history of Christianity in Thailand located in four sections:

  • HeRD & HeRB , which contains: (1) a research bulletin, HeRB (2002-2006) that I did personally; and (2) a "proto-blog" of brief research notes, HeRD (1995-1999) that I sent out by email.

  • Other Sources, which contains important sources by other authors most of which are otherwise not available online.

 

It is recommend that users begin with the main bibliography, which includes annotations indicating what sources are found elsewhere in this website.  That bibliography serves as something of an index for other sources found on the website.

A new i-book uploaded in 2019: At the Headwaters: the Beginning of Christianity in Siam's Northern Dependencies, 1867-1887.

WELCOME

The primary purpose of this website is to provide users with a variety of resources for the study of the history of Christianity in Thailand including most especially the history of Protestant Christianity in northern Thailand.  The secondary purpose of the website is to provide a home for my own work in the study of Thai church and missionary history.  Herbswanson.com, first uploaded in 1995, is on its third host and is now very different in format from its original version.  I am no longer actively engaged in the field of Thai Christian studies, and it is my intention that this current version function as something of an archive of the website, a resource for those who are interested in Thai Christian history.  I do not anticipate adding much, if any, new material to what is already here.

 

When this website was first uploaded in 1995, I had been engaged in the study of church and missionary history in Thailand for some 17 years and was the director (1988-2004) of the Office of History of the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT).  My involvement in the study of Thai Christianity, however, originally grow out of my work as the founding director (1978-1984) of the Payap College Manuscript Division, now the Payap University Archives, Chiang Mai, Thailand.  From that point on, I remained deeply involved in the study of Thai church history until I finally left the Office of History and returned to the United States in 2004.

 

In 1978, almost no professional study had been devoted to Christian history in Thailand, including Protestant church and missionary history.  What was available in English was mostly the work of missionaries, some of it very helpful but much of it more closely akin to devotional rather than historiographical literature.  If there was one center for the study of Thai Protestant church and missionary history, it was the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia.  In 1978, in fact, there was only one archives in all of Thailand, which was the National Archives in Bangkok.  So, when we set about founding and developing the Payap College Manuscript Division, we were engaged in what was virtually a pioneering adventure.  Today the Payap Archives contains some 3,000 linear feet of material plus several thousand volumes, tens of thousands of photographs, and much else.  It has long since replaced Philadelphia as the single most important center for the study of Thai church and missionary history, especially Thai Protestant history.

 

As the director of the CCT Office of History, it was my privilege to engage in many different research and writing projects most of which were focused on missionary and church history in northern Thailand.  We had a good staff that included four full-time researchers plus volunteers, part-time staff, and for several years two Karen colleagues who worked on the histories of their tribal churches.  My work was primarily in Thai, but I continued to do research and writing in English as well, and one of my goals in this website is to preserve at least some of that work for the use of others.

 

In the course of all of this, I became familiar with a wide variety of source materials and eventually created  “An English-Language Bibliography of Materials Related to Christianity in Thailand," and while it will inevitably become less and less up to date with the passing of time it is after all a bibliography of historical sources, which means that the source material it does cite will continue to be relevant to the study of Thai church history.  Nothing like it exists elsewhere, and it alone justifies this website.  And while my own work (see the sections "HeRD & HeRB" and "Individual Works") is also an important resource for the study of a variety of different historical subjects related to the field of Thai church history, there are obviously many, many other important resources for that study.  Today, many of them are available online, but other important ones are not.  So, I have also included here (See "Other Sources") quite a number of such sources by other scholars and authors.

Although I am no longer actively engaged in Thai church history research and writing, I continue to feel that the history of church and missionary work in Thailand is a fascinating story.  It involves some great women and men who had to overcome significant challenges in the name of their religious faith.  It reflects all of the great themes and issues in the study of the international Protestant missionary movement.  And it particularly encompasses the story of the Thai churches themselves—a unique set of stories that deserve far more attention than they get.  I am thankful for the years that Payap College (now, Payap University) and then the Church of Christ in Thailand employed me as a church archivist and then as a full-time, professional church historian to carry out many different projects, some of which led to the contents of this website, as I indicated above.   I remember fondly the work that my colleagues and I did together to the end that the church in Thailand might be faithful to its calling.  Those were good years, which goodness I trust is reflected to one degree or another in the contents of this website.

So, welcome to this latest (and probably last) iteration of herbswanson.com.  And enjoy!

 

Herb Swanson

January 2020

 

P.S.  I still do "consult" with researchers from time to time regarding Thai church history and related subjects.  Anyone who might want a bit of advice may reach me at: herbswanson1946@gmail.com.

herbswanson.com