Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I'm writing a novel set in seventeenth century Siam. This blog is an attempt to gather all my research material in one place; hopefully, it will help me to become more productive, and that it may be useful for others interested in Siam. Garth Christpinet.

Seventeenth century Siam (Thailand) is a fascinating milieu; Europeans traveled there in great numbers as sailors, merchants, missionaries, ambassadors, company employees, artisans, and just plain old adventurers. Many of them wrote books and journals in English, French, Dutch, and Portuguese about what they saw and experienced which have survived, mines of information in an otherwise bleak landscape.

Carte des Inde Orientales drawn by Pierre Du Val, 1677. (Dawn Rooney Collection).

No Asian country can match the Thai kingdom for its far-flung and friendly relations with maritime Asia, during the period that Ayutthaya was the Thai capital [1350-1767]. A book comparable to the present study could not be written about any other Asian nation. Shortly after the founding of Ayutthaya in the fourteenth century, representatives of the Thai court traveled along the coastline of East Asia, investigating trade in Chinese ports, the king of the Ryukyu Islands, Korea and Japan. The lands of South Asia had long been known to the Thai, particularly in the context of Buddhist scholarship, and by the fifteenth century, Thai agents were exploring trading opportunities in the ports of India at first hand.

The seventeenth century brought a dramatic rise of trading and diplomatic exchanges with island courts of the Indonesian archipelago (Aceh, Jambi, Banten, Palembang, Riau) and with the great South Asian courts (Bengal, Golkonda, the Mughal Empire and Persia). Trading relations were maintained by this time with numerous ports on the coast of China, with Japan, with ports of the Indonesian and Philippine archipelago and with many ports of India. In addition to their active trade policy, the Thai monarchs were also among the most adventurous of all rulers of Asia in cultivating diplomatic relations during this period. From the beginning, Ayutthaya’s commercial doors were open, and foreign merchants were welcomed. Thai products thus reached marketplaces all across maritime Asia, from Japan on the east to the Arabian peninsula on the west. A view of Ayuttaya by Johannes Vingboons, circa 1665. Notice the octagonal building at the northwest corner of the city.

One reason why Thai exports were so widespread is the geographical position of the kingdom. Its coastlines face east to the South China Sea and Pacific rim, west to the ports of the Indian Ocean and south to the archipelago. Its only potential rivals with similar geographical advantages were the sultanates of the Malay peninsula, Sumatra, Java and other islands. But none of those states created a network of trading and diplomatic contacts throughout maritime Asia comparable to Ayutthaya’s. Chinese mariners ushered Ayutthaya into the Chinese trading world of Japan, the Ryukyu kingdom, China, Vietnam and the archipelago. Traders from ports as far west as the Arabian peninsula brought Ayutthaya into the embrace of the Muslim trading world of South Asia and the archipelago. Sailing ships from the archipelago itself provided the kingdom with even more extensive island contacts. During its final two centuries, the Thai capital was served by European coastal shipping between Asian ports. And Thai crown ships established their own network, with ports of call as distant as Nagasaki and the Persian Gulf. This combination of trading networks, together with the diplomatic initiatives of the Thai kings, was unique in all of Asia. (From Japan to Arabia: Ayutthaya's Maritime Relations with Asia, edited by Kennon Breazeale.)

To get a general idea of the period, start by reading the next two blogs, on King Prasat Tong and King Narai, which are taken from W.A.R. Wood's History of Siam, first published in 1924, but still a useful introduction to the two most important kings of the 17th century.

This is a list of such books available to me, either that were written in or have been translated into English. The idea behind this blog is to glean information from these books, and also from other websites, and have them available in one place for easy reference, and, with the help of, to have them read to me.

The map above places Phaulkon's house at the southeast of the city.


Title. Authors.

  • 1688 Revolution in Siam; Hutchinson, E.W.
  • 17th Century Burma and the Dutch VOC 1634-1680; Dijk, Wil O.
  • A Description of the Kingdom of Siam 1690; Kaempfer, Engelbert
  • A Record of Cambodia The Land and its People; Daguan, Zhou (Harris, Peter)
  • A Relation of the Voyage to Siam 1685; Tachard, Guy (Terwiel, B.J.)
  • A Resounding Failure Martin and the French in Siam; Smithies, Michael
  • A Traveler in Siam in the Year 1655; Heeck, Gijsbert (Terwiel, Barend Jan)
  • Aspects of the Embassy to Siam 1685; Chaumont, The Chevalier de and Choisy, The Abbe de
  • Ayutthaya Venice of the East; Garnier, Derick
  • Court, Company, and Campong; na Pombejra, Dhiravat
  • Description of the Thai Kingdom or Siam; Pallegoix, Mgr. Jean-Baptiste
  • Descriptions of Old Siam; Smithies, Michael
  • Discovering Ayutthaya; Kasetsiri, Charnvit & Wright, Michael
  • English Intercourse With Siam in the 17th Century; Anderson, John
  • Facets of Thai Poetry; Rajani, M.C. Chand Chirayu
  • From Japan to Arabia: Ayutthaya's Maritime; Breazeale, Kennon
  • History of Siam; Wood, W.A.R.
  • History of Siam in 1688; Blanc, Marcell le (Smithies, Michael)
  • History of the Malay Kingdom of Patani; Syukri, Ibrahim (Bailey & Miksic)
  • In the King's Trail An 18th Century Dutch Journey; Raben, Remco and na Pombejra, Dhiravat
  • Les Chateaux de la Loire; D'Huart, Simone et al
  • Mission Made Impossible The Second French Embassy; Smithies, Michael
  • Peter Floris His Voyage to the East Indies in the Globe, 1611-1615 Siam, Pattani, Bantam; Floris, Peter
    Recalling Local Pasts Autonomous History in S.E. Asia; Chutintaranond, Sunait & Baker, Chris
  • Samurai of Ayutthaya; Polenghi, Cesare
  • Siam Mapped A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation; Winichakul, Thongchai
  • Siamese Court Life in the Seventeenth Century; na Pombejra, Dhiravat
  • Siamese Sketches; Buls, Charles
  • Siamese White; Collis, Maurice
  • Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450-1680-I; Reid, Anthony
  • Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450-1680-II; Reid, Anthony
  • Strange Events in the Kingdoms of Cambodia & Laos; Kersten, Carool
  • Thailand: A Short History; Wyatt, David K.
  • The Adventure of Plants & Portuguese Discoveries; Ferrao, Jose E. Mendes
  • The Asian Military Revolution From Gunpowder; Lorge, Peter A.
  • The Diary of Kosa Pan, Thai Ambassador to France, June-July 1686; Kosa Pan
  • The Diary of Samuel Pepys; Gallienne, Richard
  • The Embassy of Pero Vaz de Siqueira to Siam (1684-1686); de Seabra, Leonor
  • The Great Nation France from Louis XV to Napoleon; Jones, Colin
  • The Siamese Embassy to the Sun King; Smithies, Michael
  • The Siamese Memoirs of Count Claude Forbin 1685-88; Smithies, Michael
  • The World of Ships; Wilkinson, Philip
  • To Rule the Waves How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World; Herman, Arthur
  • Van Vliet's Siam; Baker, na Pombejra, Kraan, Wyatt
  • Witnesses to a Revolution: Siam 1688; Smithies, Michael

No comments:

Post a Comment