The Golden Khersonese
This wolly admirable books by Professor Wheatley represent a major landmark in the study of Asian historical geography. The title, the "Golden Khersonese", is devired from Ptolemy's Geography, and is in fact the name by which he and his contemporaries referred to the Malay peninsula south of the latitude of Cape Tavoy. Any scholar who seeks to reconstruct its early historical geography is beset by many problems which are largely unfamiliar to those of his fellows whose work is concentrated in the temperate occidental land of Europe or North America. And indeed, owing to the many and wide variations which this last fact entails in the mere transliteration of ordinary vernacular names, the key to the early historical geography of such an area as this lies, as the author says, in the identification of place-names.
Professor Wheatley's impressive combination of geographical and linguistic skills has enabled him to produce a series of most convincing reconstructions of the early geography of the Malay Peninsula. After a brief introductory chapter, he proceeds to examine the main available geographical accounts of the peninsula in early times. These include the records of the Chinese. the Western Classical writers, Indians and the Arabs, and his discussion and exposition of these four groups of records in Part 1 to 5 forms the main core of the book. In all cases the argument is cleary set out and excellently illustrated by well produced maps. Extensive quotations are given, many of them in the original language as well as in English translation. Professor Wheatley has shown great skill in maintaining the continuity of his account by the way in which he has relegated the more detailed discussion of sources to appropriate appendices.