The Thai Monarchy

The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej
Paul M. Handley

Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej, the only king ever born in the United States, came to the throne of his country in 1946 and is now the world’s longest-serving monarch. The King Never Smiles, the first independent biography of Thailand’s monarch, tells the unexpected story of Bhumibol’s life and sixty-year rule—how a Western-raised boy came to be seen by his people as a living Buddha, and how a king widely seen as beneficent and apolitical could in fact be so deeply political and autocratic.

Paul Handley provides an extensively researched, factual account of the king’s youth and personal development, ascent to the throne, skillful political maneuverings, and attempt to shape Thailand as a Buddhist kingdom. Handley takes full note of Bhumibol’s achievements in art, in sports and jazz, and he credits the king’s lifelong dedication to rural development and the livelihoods of his poorest subjects. But, looking beyond the widely accepted image of the king as egalitarian and virtuous, Handley portrays an anti-democratic monarch who, together with allies in big business and the corrupt Thai military, has protected a centuries-old, barely modified feudal dynasty.

When at nineteen Bhumibol assumed the throne, the Thai monarchy had been stripped of power and prestige. Over the ensuing decades, Bhumibol became the paramount political actor in the kingdom, silencing critics while winning the hearts and minds of his people. The book details this process and depicts Thailand’s unique constitutional monarch—his life, his thinking, and his ruling philosophy.

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Saying the Unsayable: Monarchy and Democracy in Thailand
Soren Ivarsson and Lotte Isager (Editors)

The Thai monarchy today is usually presented as both guardian of tradition and the institution to bring modernity and progress to the Thai people. It is moreover seen as protector of the nation. Scrutinizing that image, this volume reviews the fascinating history of the modern monarchy. It also analyses important cultural, historical, political, religious, and legal forces shaping the popular image of the monarchy and, in particular, of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In this manner, the book offers valuable insights into the relationships between monarchy, religion and democracy in Thailand – topics that, after the September 2006 coup d’état, gained renewed national and international interest.

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Lords of Things: The Fashioning of the Siamese Monarchy’s Modern Image
Maurizio Peleggi

Lords of Things offers a fascinating interpretation of modernity in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Siam by focusing on the novel material possessions and social practices adopted by the royal elite to refashion its self and public image in the early stages of globalization. It examines the westernized modes of consumption and self-presentation, the residential and representational architecture, and the public spectacles appropriated by the Bangkok court not as byproducts of institutional reformation initiated by modernizing sovereigns, but as practices and objects constitutive of the very identity of the royalty as a civilized and civilizing class.

Bringing a wealth of new source material into a theoretically informed discussion, Lords of Things will be required reading for historians of Thailand and Southeast Asia scholars generally. It represents a welcome change from previous studies of Siamese modernization that are almost exclusively concerned with the institutional and economic dimensions of the process or with foreign relations, and will appeal greatly to those interested in transnational cultural flows, the culture of colonialism, the invention of tradition, and the relationship between consumption and identity formation in the modern era.

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A History of Thailand (3rd Edition)
Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit

A History of Thailand offers a lively and accessible account of Thailand’s political, economic, social and cultural history. This book explores how a world of mandarin nobles and unfree peasants was transformed and examines how the monarchy managed the foundation of a new nation-state at the turn of the twentieth century. The authors capture the clashes between various groups in their attempts to take control of the nation-state in the twentieth century. They track Thailand’s economic changes through an economic boom, globalisation and the evolution of mass society. This edition sheds light on Thailand’s recent political, social and economic developments, covering the coup of 2006, the violent street politics of May 2010, and the landmark election of 2011 and its aftermath. It shows how in Thailand today, the monarchy, the military, business and new mass movements are players in a complex conflict over the nature and future of the country’s democracy.

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