In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Siam is Number 74 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Written by Josiah Crosby, the British consul-general in Bangkok, the study is one of relatively few in the series issued under the name of an individual author. It contains only two sections, on political history and social and political conditions, and thus is considerably shorter than most of the books in the series. Siam (present-day Thailand) was one of few countries in Asia that was not subjected to European rule in the colonial era. The study summarizes the history of the country going back to 1350 and the founding by King Ramathibodi I of the former capital of Ayuthia. In the modern period, Siam focused on internal modernization and on maintaining good relations with Great Britain and France, whose colonial possessions in South and Southeast Asia flanked the country on the west, south, and east. The section on social and political conditions emphasizes the importance of the national religion of Buddhism, rule by an absolute monarchy, and a social system dominated by an upper class or aristocracy drawn from the royal family and high government officials. Late in World War I, Siam declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary, both as a gesture of solidarity with Great Britain and because King Rama VI is thought to have disapproved strongly of Germany’s methods of warfare, including its unrestricted submarine campaign against merchant shipping.

Last updated: March 24, 2015