As Craig Reynolds points out in this sparking collection of essays, writing the history of Siam has always been a dangerous undertaking. This is especially true for amateurs working outside the supervision of royal authorities. In the late nineteenth century, two ambitious novices found themselves on trial, persecuted by the palace for their audacity and imagination in writing about court figures. They were imprisoned, and in one case flogged, for their unauthorized histories. Recent accusations of lèse-majesté leveled at historians Michael Wright and Dr. Piriya Krairiksh remind us that the writing of Siam's history remains a pursuit fraught with peril even for longtime professionals.

Thailand, spared the debasement of Western colonialism and the devastating wars of liberation and ideology that came in its wake, now finds itself in the midst of what one Thai politician and self-appointed palace defender contends is a “cultural war” of ideas over the writing of...

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