The biases of an author who is not a polemicist are apt to be what he is least aware of and least likely to admit. I have tried to examine my biases in two areas of vulnerability: my views on nationalism and my feelings toward Thailand. I regard nationalism as far from xan unalloyed blessing. Like any system of loyalty, it has its virtues and its faults. Its good lies in its power to unite; its bad lies in its power to divide. Perhaps the history of mankind is the story of the search for larger and larger loyalties. Just as King Vajiravudh saw the development of a family spirit, a team spirit, a school spirit as the stepping stones to a national spirit perhaps the development of a national spirit is the necessary prelude to an international spirit. On Thailand my views are less ambiguous and, for that very reason, more likely to be subjective. In one of the most stimulating talks given at the Association for Asian Studies in recent years, Professor Herbert Phillips surveyed American research on Thailand and concluded, with respect to the researchers, that, despite their vast differences in field, background, and methodology, all shared one attitude. That attitude was love for Thailand and the Thai. Even writers “critical” of Thai institutions wrote their criticisms in a spirit of affection. I write, then, as objectively as I can, write truths as I see them, but the affection is there. As a historian, further, I have often experienced personally, seen the living reality of, the Thai view—indeed the Southeast Asian view—of what history is, or should be. History to the Thai is not the cold compilation of facts and analysis of events, the piling up of stories, good and evil, with no aim except objective truth. History’s aim is not to be, in Thucydides’ phrase, “an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future,” but rather a setting forth of the moral good of the past, of the virtues of the past, to serve as a moral guide to the future. This view of the uses of history commands my respect as those who expressed it to me in intimate conversation command my respect. In the end, however, I remain a Western historian of Siam, not a Siamese historian. My intellectual progenitor is Thucydides.
The “assisted by” on the title page needs a word of explanation. Dorothy B. Vella, my wife, played an extraordinary role in the development of this book—as a researcher, a consultant, and an editor. She did all the research in the English-language newspapers. Every thought and idea, every draft and redraft, was tested out on her. And the final editing was hers. Credit for the book we share, but the blame for error I must assume alone. For I wrote the words, and, in cases of conflict, I played the autocrat.
To give proper acknowledgment of aid given me in this study over the years is awesome. First of all, heartiest and fullest thanks are due to those Thai who lived during the reign and were willing to reminisce for my benefit: Netra Poonwiwat, Rian Srichandr, and xiCharoon Sattamet, three members of the coup party of 1912 who were willing to bare to a stranger painful periods of their lives; Prince Dhani Nivat; Princess Poon Pismai Diskul; Princess Charu-bhatra Abhakorn; Prince Sitthiporn Kridakara; Phraya Harnklang-samuth; Sathitya Semanil; Phraya Prichanusat; M. L. Pin Malakul; Phra Mahamontri; Phra Maha Dhep Kasatarasanuha; Phraya Borihara Rajamanob; Phraya Noradhebprida; Udom Kalyanamitra; Khunying Chalow Anirutdeva; Nai Kuad Humphrae; M. R. Kukrit Pramoj; and Princess Elisabeth Chakrabongse. Belonging to this list, but meriting most particular thanks for answering my questions repeatedly in person and by letter, is Chamun Amorn Darunarak. He and his wife Uthumporn have become more than correspondents; they have become my very good friends.
Another category of acknowledgment is due the Thai friends, librarians, teachers, and students who helped me in such diverse ways as finding a needed book or helping me puzzle out a poetic line: Vilaileka Buranasiri, Vina Sritanratana, Dr. Kajorn Sukabanij, Sulak Sivaraksa, Captain and Mrs. Bisdarn Chulasevok, Robert and Kanok Vil, Maenmas Chavalit, Choosri Sawasdisongkram, Neon Snidvongs, Niramol Kangsadara Pachinburavan, Phraya Bharataraja, Lt. Bhakorn Subhajalasaya, Dr. Malai and Khunying Ubol Huvanandana, Kamol T. Chaisuwan, and Vilai Grandstaff. Also in this category of friend and helper is Ramphai Charumas, who did more than any other individual to arrange introductions to people I wanted to meet and to track down books and collections of books I needed to read and who aided me in other ways too numerous to recall.
Invaluable in providing much of the wherewithal for my sabbatical year of research in Thailand in 1969–1970 was the American Council of Learned Societies, which awarded me a research grant. Thai institutional cooperation was also exceedingly generous; particularly noteworthy in this regard were the National Research Council, the National Archives, the National Library, the Damrong Library, and the Siam Society.
Among the inspirers and facilitators of any work that arises out of academe are countless people in one’s university—colleagues, students, librarians, administrators, and members of the secretarial staff. Colleagues venture ideas, students react to notions. Complete attributions are impossible here. But worthy of particular mention for indispensable aid in searching and securing titles are two members of the University of Hawaii’s Asia Collection staff: Joyce Wright, head, and Mrs. Lan Hiang Char, librarian. A researcher’s obligation to his institution—in my case, the University of Hawaii—is immeasurable. xiiI am grateful to the university for granting me the research time and sabbatical leave that made this study possible and for aiding me in countless other ways such as awarding special funds for microfilming materials related to my research. A final word of heartfelt thanks goes to the loyal and indefatigable band of secretary-typists at the university, particularly Gayle Ing, Machiko Tsuruya, and Jo Ann Yamashita, who succeeded in translating the almost illegible scrawl of my first draft into readable type and who thereafter faced mounds of retyping with undiminished good cheer.