A celebratory conference of this kind should allow the keynote lecture to be somewhat more personal than normal. It is with that in mind that I have linked the theme, ‘Southeast Asia: Past, Present and Future’, to the person whose birthday we are celebrating. I do not know if I can do that successfully but will try by pursuing some of Nick’s [Nicholas Tarling] and my own life and professional experiences with imperial themes in Southeast Asian history. Why ‘imperial themes’? Would not that be too much of a bias towards the past?