IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > D. South and Southeast Asia, 1500–1800 > 3. Mainland Southeast Asia, 1500–1800 > b. Siam (Ayutthaya)
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1376–1557)
b. Siam (Ayutthaya)
Administrative centralization of Siam attributed to efforts of King Trailokanat (r. 1448–88); but most of institutionalized form of government probably resulted from reign of King Naresuen the Great (r. 1590–1605). Under this king, Siam regained its independence from Burma and emerged as most powerful kingdom in mainland Southeast Asia.  1
Development of overseas trade can be dated as early as 1368. By the early modern period, Siam was a major source for sappanwood and pepper in the Chinese trading network.  2
Siamese adopted Hinduism along with Theravada Buddhism. Hindu concept of divine kingship, and accompanying rituals, provided important sources of legitimation. But in Siamese society, the claim to divinity operated without the internal checks characteristic of India, for Brahmans had little influence at the court. This may explain the pronounced aspect of absolutism in Siam. Yet Buddhism was dominant in the cultural system that emerged in the early modern period, particularly in providing signs of legitimation (and delegitimation in the face of popular unrest) for rulers. Royal interaction with sangha (groups of monks) provided especially important occasions for public statements of rulers' support of Buddhist precepts; nevertheless, Thai rulers closely controlled the sangha through cultural patronage (their support ranged from sponsorship of architecture and sculpture to public processions).  3
As a measure of impact of military technology, King Phrachai (r. 1534–46) retained 120 Portuguese to instruct Siamese soldiers in musketry.  4
New fortification style was introduced around the Siamese capital. King Maha Thammarcha (r. 1569–90) also purchased large supplies of foreign cannon. Consequently, by the time Naresuen the Great launched campaign to consolidate Siam, the Siamese royal army was well equipped and trained in the use of firearms.  5
First fall of Ayutthaya to invading Burmese army.  6
By 1579
China created the Siamese Language Department at the Official Translation Office, perhaps a measure of the importance of Siam as a trading partner.  7
King Naresuen the Great regained independence and utilized political, economic, and military forces to transform fragmented kingdom into relatively centralized state.  8
Portuguese trading stations were established in the 16th century, and around the beginning of the 17th century large numbers of Japanese were active in Siam in war and trade.  9
A Dutch trading post was established at Patani, where the English soon followed, until their withdrawal from Siam in 1623.  10
R. 1656–88
King Narai most energetic in pursuit of trade with foreigners. His curiosity about Persian and French cultures made his court known for its openness.  11
By a commercial treaty, the Dutch gained a monopoly of Siamese foreign trade, which was, however, thwarted by French intrigue; a French embassy and military expedition (1685) in turn failed to secure the acceptance of Christianity and French influence and led to  12
A popular revolt that began a period of prolonged civil war. Prompted in part by reaction against Narai's openness, it became anti-European. European trade languished, but Chinese and Muslim trade continued at a high level to take up the slack.  13
By this time a dramatic decline in trade with Muslims and Europeans could be measured, although the Chinese trade helped to fill the gap.  14
A Burmese invasion destroyed Ayuthia and compelled temporary acceptance of Burmese rule until  15
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.