In Thai studies to date there has been little attempt to discuss the changes that took place during the nineteenth century in terms of what Western historiography would call intellectual history. The reasons for the scant attention paid to this subject are various, having as much to do with the infancy of the field of Thai studies as with the lack of speculative literature (in Siamese) that would attract the curiosity of intellectual historians. For example, we hardly know what books—especially what Western books—were read by the nineteenth-century Siamese elite, let alone how such books shaped its outlook and its perceptions of change. Because Siam has been a predominantly Buddhist state, it might be advisable to begin with Buddhist materials—in particular, with Buddhist cosmography and the Siamese reassessment of it that has taken place since the encounter with the West in the middle of the nineteenth century.

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