Foraminiferal palaeontology has deep roots in SE Asia. Accidents of history have, however, greatly reduced the role of the region in modern micropalaeontological studies. To understand this history some analogues can be made to natural evolutionary processes, whereby variations in the stability of an environment produce different selection pressures. The early days were times of multi-talented and flexible pioneers doing their own fieldwork, palaeontology and geology. This blossomed into a period of stability and the development of finely tuned specialists. The modern era, however, is dominated by a selection process that has commoditized analyses and discourages innovation. This negative pressure affected many geological services. For biostratigraphy, however, it came at the same time as the computing revolution in seismics; when micropalaeontology should have evolved alongside better subsurface imaging, it faded into the background. Foraminiferal studies will regain their importance when the environmental pressures change. With fantastically rich faunas and complex geology that is in need of the best analytical methods, it is a wonderful laboratory for facies analysis and stratigraphy as well as pure palaeontology.