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A Diplomat in Siam (introduced and edited by Nigel Brailey)

Date: 2000
Nigel Brailey, a University of Bristol historian who is well known to students of Sir Ernest Satow, is to be congratulated on bringing out a revised edition of this work, the fruit of Satow's period as British minister-resident in Bangkok from 1885 until 1888. It is the journal which Satow, later the author of the famous Guide to Diplomatic Practice, kept on his long boat journey from Bangkok to the northern city of Chiangmai and back again, which took from the beginning of December 1885 until the end of the following February.
The purpose of the trip, from which he returned with a serious case of malaria, was to investigate the delays in the Chiangmai ‘native’ court’s determination of disputes involving British subjects engaged in the teak trade, and to report on this trade generally. However, like the eminently professional diplomat he was, Satow noted down in his diary everything of conceivable interest – whether of plants and trees, wild life, ancient temples, agricultural practices, and so on – about which he learned on his journey. With hardly any political content in the diary at all, most of this makes dull reading for all but those with a general interest in late nineteenth century Thailand. Neverthless, it is revealing of Satow’s amazingly broad interests and of the kind of reporting that was expected of diplomats at that time. It is also a key primary source for the biography of Satow that is still awaited.

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