In 1856, just months after Britain and Siam had finalised the historic Bowring trade treaty that would prevent the country’s colonisation, the violent death of a Siamese official at the new British consulate threatened to scuttle the deal and lead to war. The King and the Consul explores UK and Thai archives to reveal the twists, turns and tensions of this little-known episode that pitted Thailand’s renowned King Mongkut, Rama IV, against the first British consul, Charles Hillier. The crisis was resolved without war, but not without cost for the participants who suffered unintended tragic outcomes. The book also reveals how this incident has continued to shape official Thai attitudes to foreign ownership of land up to today.
“The fabulous tale of the Bowring mission’s trials and tribulations, and its ultimate success, leaves an indelible image. It reads like a classic novel [Dickens?], with only footnote citations to the contemporary record as a reminder that all this really happened.”
Edward Van Roy, author of Siamese Melting Pot: Ethnic Minorities in the Making of Bangkok
“Only a writer with Simon Landy’s deep understanding of Thai and British culture, diplomacy and business over nearly two centuries could transform a little-known episode in Anglo-Thai relations into this fascinatingly quirky tale of legal wrangles, death and royal repentance in old Siam.”
Gwen Robinson, Editor of the Nikkei online and former President of the FCCT Thailand
“This intriguing book could only be written by someone with long residence in Bangkok, thorough knowledge of Thailand’s property law, and enthusiasm for history. Simon Landy gives us a slice of legal and diplomatic history with close attention to its human dimensions. An unusual and lovely read.”
Chris Baker, author of A History of Thailand and political commentator