The Crown and the Capitalists
The Ethnic Chinese and the Founding of the Thai Nation
- PUBLISHED: November 2019
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / Southeast Asia, History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 216 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 7 tables
- SERIES: Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies
- ISBN: 9780295746241
Despite competing with much larger imperialist neighbors in Southeast Asia, the Kingdom of Thailand—or Siam, as it was formerly known—has succeeded in transforming itself into a rival modern nation-state over the last two centuries. Recent historiography has placed progress—or lack thereof—toward Western-style liberal democracy at the center of Thailand’s narrative, but that view underestimates the importance of the colonial context. In particular, a long-standing relationship with China and the existence of a large and important Chinese diaspora within Thailand have shaped development at every stage.
As the emerging nation struggled against colonial forces in Southeast Asia, ethnic Chinese entrepreneurs were neither a colonial force against whom Thainess was identified, nor had they been able to fully assimilate into Thai society. Wasana Wongsurawat demonstrates that the Kingdom of Thailand’s transformation into a modern nation-state required the creation of a national identity that justified not only the hegemonic rule of monarchy but also the involvement of the ethnic Chinese entrepreneurial class upon whom it depended. Her revisionist view traces the evolution of this codependent relationship through the twentieth century, as Thailand struggled against colonial forces in Southeast Asia, found itself an ally of Japan in World War II, and reconsidered its relationship with China in the postwar era.
Authors & Contributors
Wasana Wongsurawat is assistant professor of modern Chinese history at Chulalongkorn University. She is the editor of Sites of Modernity: Asian Cities in the Transitory Moments of Trade, Colonialism and Nationalism and coeditor of Dynamics of the Cold War in Asia: Ideology, Identity, and Culture.
Superb passages of original and unusual research . . . [a] sweeping, polemical treatment of a century of history.- Bangkok Post
This insightful monograph is unquestionably a tour de force worth reading by both amateurs and professional scholars whose interest lies in Thai history and the Chinese in Thailand.- Journal of Chinese Overseas
[A] path-breaking and fascinating interpretation of modern Thai history.- South East Asia Research
[A] provocative book that promises to reopen debates about the relationship between Chineseness, Thai nationalism, and the Thai monarchy.- Southeast Asian Studies
Wongsurawat provocatively flips the usual narrative about Thai nationalism.- Choice
Wongsurawat’s book offers a more complete view of the nature of the Thai nation and of the triangular relation between Chinese, Thai people, and the monarchy. Her interesting book makes clear the evolution of the Thai nation and explores the fundamental role of the national educational system for the shaping of national identity.- The Middle Ground Journal
[A]n excellent and most thoughtful contribution to the understanding of the Chinese diaspora in Thailand and Southeast Asia.- H-Net Reviews
A bold, highly readable attempt to rethink the mutually imbricated modern histories of Southeast Asia, China, the West, and international migration.- Pál Nyiri, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
This book offers a fascinating ‘neotraditional’ interpretation of Thailand’s history since the late nineteenth century. The primary research is enterprising and original, the arguments are strong and new, and the writing is exceptionally good.- Chris Baker, coauthor of A History of Thailand
A useful addition to the literature on Chinese Southeast Asians, and on Thai history.- Anthony Reid, author of A History of Southeast Asia: Critical Crossroads