An understanding of present conditions in rural areas of Southeast Asia is both a product and a reflection of the past. History, in other words, has a bearing on contemporary change both substantively and conceptually. Substantively to the extent that the present is a product of a succession of historical processes, and conceptually in the sense that how we understand and interpret contemporary issues is a product of how the past is constructed. As Brown has noted in his history of economic change in Southeast Asia since 1830, 'our view of the pre-colonial rural order profoundly informs our understanding of the economic and social change which took place . . . during the colonial period’ (1997: 10). It also, in turn, influences and informs our understanding of change since the colonial period. As the last chapter emphasised, agrarian transitions are critically contingent on unique configurations in which history plays a central part.