THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
OF CONTEMPORARY THAILAND
This section is divided into two parts. The first includes a series of items which deal broadly with Thai history, with the traditional monarchy and the early years of the post-monarchical period, or with various characteristics of Thailand at a particular stage in the nation’s history. The absolute monarchy of traditional Thailand was one of the most significant features of the entire society. A number of the materials cited in this section contribute to an understanding of the kingship, especially the works of Wales and Vella. The other sources supplement these more general works.
As for the individual monarchs, one, King Mongkut (Rama IV), has been the subject of a number of Western-language biographical studies. Unfortunately, an equivalent treatment of his distinguished royal son, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) is not available. Concerning the last two absolute monarchs of the Chakri Dynasty, Kings Vajiravudh (Rama VI) and Prajadhipok (Rama VII), Walter Vella and D. G. E. Hall have summed their achievements and their characters.
The second part of this section is concerned with Thailand’s relations with the West. Thailand’s first encounter with the West occurred in the sixteenth century following the Portuguese descent upon Malacca. Emissaries of the Portuguese General Albuquerque were sent to Siam because it was the nominal suzerain of the Malay sultanate. Little came of this mission, however, and Siam charted its own course during the sixteenth century.
The ancient kingdom also had a brief encounter with the West in the seventeenth century. After this episode came to an end in 1688, Thai-Western relations waned until the nineteenth century. Some of the key facts of nineteenth and twentieth century Thai history concern the Thai accommodation of Western forces and influences. Vella is a primary authority on Western impact, along with Wyatt. Valuable material will also be found in Hall and Cady, in the writings of Western observers cited in the first part of this section and in Section A, and in Section C-6.
Bowring, Sir John. The Kingdom and People of Siam: With a Narrative of the Mission to that Country in 1855. 2 vols. London: Parker, 1857. 482 pages, 446 pages.
A ranging description by a good observer of Thai society in the middle nineteenth century.
Cady, John F. Southeast Asia: Its Historical Development. See Section A.
Carter, A. Cecil (ed.). The Kingdom of Siam. New York: Putnam, 1904. 280 pages.
This volume, prepared for the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition at St. Louis, Missouri, is an official description of Thai government and its setting at the height of the modernization efforts during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910).
Chakrabongse, Prince Chula. Lords of Life: The Paternal Monarchy of Bangkok, 1782-1932. New York: Taplinger, 1960. 352 pages.
Offered as a historical treatment of the Chakri Dynasty, and particularly of the later kings, this book was written by a British-educated member of Thai royalty. It is essentially a romantic and adulatory interpretation, and a poor history. Some useful factual information, but little that is novel and significant.
Choisy, Abbé François Timoléon de. Journal du voyage de Siam fait en 1685 a 1686. Reissued, with an introductory essay by Maurice Garçon. Paris: Editions du Charter and van Buggenhout, 1928. 296 pages.
An illustrated edition of the classic account of the Abbé’s voyage.
Chomchai, Prachoom. Chulalongkorn the Great. Tokyo. Center for East Asian Cultural Studies, 1965. 167 pages.
Largely a translation of material from Salao Rekaruchi and Udom Pramuanwidhya, Piya Maharaj Chulalongkorn, Odeon Store, Bangkok, 1961. This, in turn, is a popular account based upon Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, Praraj Pongsawadarn Krung Ratanakosin Rajakarn Tee 5, a chronicle of the reign of King Chulalongkorn. Includes descriptions of some social, economic, and governmental changes during the reign of Rama V, and some information about the personal life of the king. Useful information on the Chakri reformation.
Coedès, George. The Indianized States of Southeast Asia: An English Translation of Les États hindouisés d’Indochine et d’Indonésie. See Section A.
Coedès, George. The Making of Southeast Asia. See Section A.
Crawfurd, John. The Crawfurd Papers. Bangkok: Vajiranana National Library, 1915. 285 pages.
A collection of the official records relating to the 1821 mission of Dr. Crawfurd, published in English at the order of the Vajiranana National Library.
Crawfurd, John. Journal of an Embassy from the Governor-General of India to the Courts of Siam and Cochin-China. London: Colburn, 1928.
An interesting report of the 1821 mission, with impressions of the court and kingdom of the time, as well as of trade prospects.
Crosby, Sir Josiah. Siam: The Crossroads. London: Hollis & Carter Ltd., 1945. 174 pages.
A well-informed survey of Thai culture, history, government, and diplomatic relations with Britain, France, Japan, and China. A good account of the overthrow of the absolute monarchy in 1932. The author writes from his own experience of nearly twenty-five years in Thailand with the British foreign service.
Damrong Rajanubhab, Prince. Miscellaneous Articles Written f or the Journal of the Siam Society by His Late Royal Highness, Prince Damrong. Bangkok: The Siam Society, 1962. 124 pages and 33 plates.
Consists of articles on Thai history and temple art, with 33 plates of Buddhist images. Articles include: “The Foundation of Ayudhya,” “Preface to O. A. Frankfurter’s Translation of Events in Ayudhya,” “The Story of Records of Siamese History,” “Siamese History Prior to the Founding of Ayudhya,” “The Golden Pavilion of Wat Sai,” “Angkor from a Siamese Point of View,” and “The Introduction of Western Culture in Siam.”
Dhani Nivat, Prince. “The Old Siamese Conception of the Monarchy.” Journal of the Siam Society, vol. 36, part 2, 1947.
An authoritative sketch of the place of the kingship in the traditional society. Reprinted in Fiftieth Anniversary Commemorative Publication (Selected articles from the Journal of the Siam Society). Bangkok: The Siam Society, 1954, pp. 160175.
Dhani Nivat, Prince. ״The Reconstruction of Rama I of the Chakkri Dynasty.” Journal of the Siam Society, August, 1955, pp. 21-47.
A historical narrative by a distinguished Thai scholar, describing the legal, historical, ceremonial, and artistic writings attributed to Phra Yodfa, Rama I of the Chakkri Dynasty, who established Bangkok as the national capital. Reprinted in Lophburi, Bangkok, Bhuket. Selected Articles from the Journal of the Siam Society, Volume IV, pp. 238-265, cited below.
Early History and Ayudhya Period: Selected Articles from the Journal of the Siam Society, Volume III. Bangkok: The Siam Society, 1959. 315 pages.
Articles on the Ayudhyan period (1350-1767) and preAyudhyan history and tradition. Notes on early Thai commerce, and other subjects.
Graham, Walter A. Siam. See Section A.
Griswold, Alexander B. King Mongkut of Siam. New York: The Asia Society, 1961. 60 pages.
An expansion of an article originally published in the Journal of the Siam Society in April, 1957, and reprinted in Lophburi, Bangkok, Bhuket: Selected Articles from the Journal of the Siam Society, Volume IV, cited below.
Hall, D. G. E. A History of Southeast Asia. See Section A.
Harrison, Brian. South-East Asia: A Short History. See Section A.
la Loubère, Simon de. A New Historical Relation of the Kingdom of Siam. English-language edition. London, 1693.
An interesting source of information about Thai culture and society of the late seventeenth century, and of Western perspectives thereon, growing out of the voyage of M. de la Loubère in 1688 and 1689.
Landon, Kenneth Perry. “Siam,” in Lennox Mills, et al., The New World of Southeast Asia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1949, pp. 246-272.
A summary of events and trends in Thailand from 1932 to 1948 by a scholar, missionary, and diplomatic advisor.
Landon, Kenneth Perry. Siam in Transition. Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, 1939. U.S. distribution by University of Chicago Press. 328 pages. (Pirated edition, entitled Thailand in Transition. Bangkok, circa 1947. 427 pages.)
A survey of apparent themes of change in Thai culture and society in the years following the 1932 revolution.
le May, Reginald S. The Coinage of Siam. Bangkok: The Siam Society, 1932. Reissued in 1961. 134 pages and plates.
This seems to be the only English-language history of the coinage of Thailand.
Lophburi, Bangkok, Bhuket: Selected Articles from the Journal of the Siam Society, Volume IV. Bangkok: The Siam Society, 1959. 304 pages.
The title is imprecise. The volume contains a number of articles on various aspects of Thai history, including the monarchy, and including commentaries on some early accounts by Western visitors to Thailand. Particularly relevant items are cited at appropriate locations within this bibliography.
Moffat, Abbot Low. Mongkut, the King of Siam. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1961. 254 pages.
A sensitive and enthusiastic treatment, which is also wellorganized and well-written. Together, Griswold and Moffat set straight the absurd and romantic record written by the onetime governess at the court of Siam, Mrs. Anna Leonowens, and give Mongkut the treatment he deserves as a vital figure in Thai history.
Pallegoix, Jean Baptiste. Description du royaume Thai ou Siam, comprenant la topographie, histoire naturelle, moeurs et coutûmes, legislation, commerce, industrie, langue, littérature, religion, Annales des Thais et précis historique de la mission. 2 vols. Paris: 1854.
Bishop Pallegoix’s study is as useful as it was ambitious; it contains a wealth of data about the topics included in his title. An English translation by R. F. Martins was published in Shanghai by the Celestial Empire Office, 1877.
Promoj, M. R. Seni. “King Mongkut as a Legislator.” Journal of the Siam Society, January, 1950, pp. 32-66.
Describes the innovative efforts of King Mongkut, including both his edicts and the modifications he undertook in the organization of Thai government during his reign (1851-1868). Reprinted in Lophburi, Bangkok, Bhuket; Selected Articles from the Journal of the Siam Society, Volume IV. Bangkok. The Siam Society, 1959, pp. 203-237.
Rabibhadana, Akin. The Organization of Thai Society in the Early Bangkok Period, 1782-1783. Ithaca: Cornell University, Southeast Asia Program, Data Paper No. 74, 1969. 245 pages.
Examination of social change in pre-modern Thailand. Demonstrates the importance of labor control and imperfections therein. Excellent piece of work.
Relationship with Burma; Parts I and II: Selected Articles from the Journal of the Siam Society, Volumes V and VI. Bangkok: The Siam Society, 1959. 207 pages, 228 pages.
Accounts of sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth-century relations between Burma and Siam, drawn from Ilmannan Yazawin Dawgyi, a history of Burma, compiled at the behest of King Bagyidaw of Burma in 1829. Also included is a chronicle of Thai history from Burmese sources for the period 1569-1767, known as “The Statement of Khun Luang Ha Wat.” This is more fantastic than empirical, but interesting as a reflection of the spirit of its time and place.
Sarasas Bholakarn, Phra. My Country Thailand (Its History, Geography and Civilization). Fifth Edition. Bangkok: 1956. 192 pages.
About three-fourths of this book is a history organized around the reigns of the sequence of Thai kings. Interesting because it reflects the perspective and assessments of a Thai author.
Siam: General and Medical Features. Bangkok: The Executive committee, Eighth Congress, Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine, 1930. 332 pages.
Twenty-five chapters by various advisors and officials in the Thai government, describing Thai government and administration, history, culture, education, transportation, science, medicine, etc. A useful, if by nature uncritical, bench mark sketch of conditions in Thailand shortly before the end of the era of the absolute monarchy.
Siam: Nature and Industry. Bangkok: Ministry of Commerce and Communications, 1930. 315 pages.
This collection of twenty-two chapters on geography, geology, transportation and communications, the economy, etc., supplements the above-cited Siam: General and Medical Features. A useful source of data on various aspects of prerevolutionary Thailand.
Sirisumpundh, Kasem. “Emergence of the Modern National State in Burma and Thailand.” Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1962. 407 pages.
An historical survey and analysis of the development of the contemporary Thai nation-state. Some broad consideration of military and religious influences; a realistic assessment of the basic character of the Thai political system; and some suggestive distinctions between the Thai and Burmese cases.
Srivisarn Vacha, Phya. “Kingship in Siam.” Journal of the Siam Society, July, 1954, pp. 1-10.
A brief sketch, interesting partly because in the latter 1960’s the author served as an assistant to the Prime Minister and as rector of the University of Chiengmai.
Thompson, Virginia. Thailand, the New Siam. New York: Macmiilan, 1941. 865 pages.
Dated, but remains a source of general information about pre-war diplomacy, modernization, education, government, and politics. Includes a variety of impressionistic interpretations.
Vella, Walter F. Siam Under Rama ԱԼ 1824-1851. New York: J. J. Augustin, for the Association for Asian Studies, 1957. 180 pages.
A valuable study by a specialist in Thai history. Drawn largely from Thai sources, this work documents the kingship as it was exercised by Rama III. It also provides a discerning portrait of Thailand’s encounter with the West in the second quarter of the nineteenth century.
Wales, H. G. Quaritch. Ancient Siamese Government and Administration. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1934. Reissued, New York: Paragon Book Reprint, 1956. 206 pages.
The best available English-language source on government in traditional Thailand. Some of Wales’ interpretations are open to challenge; for example, his ascribing virtually unlimited power to the king,
Wales, H. G. Quaritch. Siamese State Ceremonies: Their History and Function. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1931. 326 pages.
Describes a variety of ceremonies connected with the traditional kingship, related to agriculture, aimed at propitiation of spirits, etc. Also includes much information on the organization and functions of Thai monarchical government.
Wood, W. A. R. A History of Siam, From the Earliest Times to the Year A.D. 1781, With a Supplement Dealing with More Recent Events. London: Unwin, 1926. 294 pages. Revised edition, Bangkok: Siam Barnakich Press, 1933. 300 pages.
A useful and substantial outline of Thai history drawn from ancient chronicles.
Wright, Arnold (ed.). Twentieth Century Impressions of Siam. London: Lloyds Great Britain Publishing Company, 1908. 302 pages.
This official volume contains a valuable collection of state־־ ments on various aspects of Thai government written by the officials in charge and by foreign advisors. Many of the articies are first-rate descriptions of achievements during the reign of King Chulalongkorn.
Wyatt, David K. The Politics of Reform in Thailand: Education in the Reign of King Chulalongkorn. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1969.
This study of educational reform in the Fifth Reign of the Bangkok Period (1868-1910) focuses on one aspect of modernization. Examines the roles of the King, his advisors, and professional educators in formulating and directing a program of ambitious educational reform, especially in the period 1898־ 1910. The project involved both the problem of priorities in a situation of restricted economic and human resources, and the problem of generational and tactical conflict within a rapidly changing elite.
Wyatt, David K., and Constance M. Wilson. “Thai Historical Materials in Bangkok.” Journal of Asian Studies, November, 1965, pp. 105-118.
A very useful survey of Thai historical materials located in Bangkok, with specific information concerning the nature, origin, extent, location, and accessibility of materials.
Burney, H. (Envoy to the Court of Siam). The Burney Papers. 5 vols. Bangkok: Vajiranana National Library, 1910-1914.
An extensive compilation of official documents and letters between Great Britain and Siam from 1825-1850, one of the decisive periods in Thailand’s diplomatic history. Contains documents concerning straits settlements, factory records, and the secret Bengal political consultations. Volume V deals with British policy from the establishment of Penang to 1842; written by Burney and Major James Low, it provides an interesting account of the 1838 Siamese-Malay War and the events surrounding the Malacca Straits settlement.
Collis, Maurice. Siamese White. London: Faber and Faber, 1936. 230 pages.
A lively and readable account of the Siamese adventures of Samuel White, a one-time member of the British East India Company establishment who turned adventurer and became involved with Constance Phaulkon, the Greek “prime minister״ of Thailand until 1688. A personalized historical account drawn from official sources.
Damrong Rajanubhab, Prince. “The Introduction of Western Culture in Siam.” Journal of the Siam Society, vol. 20. no. 2,1926, p. 89 ff.
A brief account of some episodes in Thai-Western relations, by a distinguished Thai statesman and scholar. Reprinted in Relationship with Portugal, Holland, and the Vatican: Selected Articles from the Journal of the Siam Society, Volume VII, pp. 1-12.
Drans, Jean, and Henri Bernard, S. J. Memoire du Père de Be ze sur la vie de Constance Phaulkon, Premier Ministre du roi de Siam, Phra Narai et sa triste fin. Tokyo: Presses Salesiennes, 1947. 282 pages.
Father de Beze’s memoir was written about 1689, the year after Phaulkon’s violent death. It is published here with a number of pieces of correspondence by, to, or concerning Phaulkon, with a brief introductory essay, a table of corrections of the de Beze mss., and an index.
Kaochareon, Rapee. “The Use of Foreign Advisors and Officials in the Thai Civil Service During Rama V’s Through VIII’s Reigns.” Unpublished Master’s thesis, University of New Hampshire, 1963. 313 pages.
Foreign officials and advisors were vital contributors to Thai survival, beginning with the last half of the nineteenth century. This is a detailed survey of their numbers and services, indicating that during the transitional era of administrative reform they literally managed and operated many parts of the emerging bureaucracy.
McFarland, Bertha Blount. McFarland of Siam. New York: Vantage Press, 1958. 313 pages.
The biography of a man belonging to a missionary family who made significant contributions to medicine, education, and Western technology. Captures the flavor and spirit of the missionary impact during the latter nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.
Martin, James V., Jr. “A History of the Diplomatic Relations Between Siam and the United States of America, 1933-1939, 1939-1948.” See Section C-6.
Modelski, George (ed.). SEATO: Six Studies. See Section C-4.
Records of the Relations Between Siam and Foreign Countries in the 17th Century (copied from papers preserved at the India Office). 5 vols. Bangkok: Vajiranana National Library, 1915- 1921.
A useful official source concerning seventeenth-century diplomacy.
Relationship with Portugal, Holland and the Vatican: Selected Articles from the Journal of the Siam Society, Volume VII.Bangkok: The Siam Society, 1959. 276 pages.
A number of articles dealing with sixteenth and seventeenth century Western relations with Thailand, in one of a series of reprint volumes brought out by the Siam Society beginning in 1954.
Relationship with France, England, and Denmark: Selected Articies from the Journal of the Siam Society, Volume VIII. Bangkok: The Siam Society, 1959. 288 pages.
A compilation of ten articles by l’Abbé de Choisy, W. E. Hutchinson, Erik Seidenfaden, D. G. E. Hall, and others, concerning Siam’s seventeenth and nineteenth-century military and diplomatic relations with France, Denmark, and England. Includes W. E. Hutchinson’s “The Four French State Manuscripts Relating to Embassies Between France and Siam in the 17th Century,” and Seidenfaden’s “Early Trade Relations Between Denmark and Siam.”
Sayre, Francis Bowes. “The Passing of Extraterritoriality in Siam.” American Journal of International Law, January, 1928, pp. 70-88.
Sketches the extraterritoriality provisions of Thai-Western treaties from the mid-nineteenth century, and describes the diplomatic action which led to the elimination of extraterritoriality provisions by the 1920’s. The author, serving as advisor to the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, was a participant in the latter treaty negotiations.
Siam: Treaties with Foreign Powers,1920-1927. Bangkok: Royal Siamese Government, 1928. 280 pages.
Edited by Phya Kalyan Maitri (Francis Bowes Sayre),this is a collection, in English, of the important treaties that redefined Thai-Western relations, abrogating all former treaties, eliminating extraterritoriality, and re-establishing Thailand’s fiscal autonomy. The treaties were signed with Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United States.
Tarling, Nicholas. “Siam and Sir James Brooke.” Journal of the Siam Society, November, 1960, pp. 43-72.
An interesting account of an early nineteenth-century episode. Discusses the Thai strategy of offering economic concessions during the period preceding the Bowring Treaty of 1854.
Vella, Walter F. The Impact of the West on Government in Thailand. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1955. 410 pages.
Examines the changes in Thai government in the past century in terms of the adaptation of Western ideas, techniques, and institutions. The author systematically traces the political impact of the West, but concludes that “the mass of the Thai population has been little affected by Western ideas on government ....”
Vella, Walter F. Siam Under Rama III, 1824-1851. See Section B-l.
Young, Kenneth T. “The Special Role of American Advisers in Thailand, 1902-1949.” See Section C-6.