Global trends which have seen the dramatic rise of the East-Southeast Asian economies suggests a turning of the wheel. Students of world history will recall the central place of China and India in the pre-modern world as producers and exporters of, variously, silks, ceramics and textiles, just as their populations and economies vastly dwarfed those of medieval Europe. The sprawling tropical zone of Southeast Asia, known historically as a prime source of spices and natural commodities, also boasted impressive civilisations. Still we are perplexed as to how a region boasting internationally known trade emporium dropped off the centre stage of world history. Reading back, did colonialism and imperialism turn the tide against indigenous agency? Or was stagnation an inevitable feature of life in pre-modern Southeast Asia? In seeking to answer these and other questions, this article both replays and critiques the many constructions of the broader East-Southeast Asia region, including its historiography, with special attention to recent trends in the framing of world-regional and global history. This is important, I argue, as localism, powerful state narratives, and the legacies of colonial conceptions and categories all contrive to ignore the importance of a holistic framing of this part of the globe.