Siam and The West, 1500–1700by Dirk Van der Cruysse
Translated by Michael Smithies
Ambassadors from Versailles in wigs and lace mounted on elephants crossing rice fields, Siamese mandarins prostrate before the throne of Louis XIV, a Greek adventurer, a scheming French Jesuit—these are just a few of the colourful characters that play a role in the early history of relations between Siam and the West.
In a lively and engaging style, Professor Dirk Van der Cruysse traces the history of European-Siamese relations, from the arrival of the Portuguese around the beginning of the sixteenth century followed by the Dutch, the British, and the French. Explorers, merchants, missionaries, and ambassadors came and went across the oceans, sometimes producing vivid accounts of lengthy voyages, lavish courts, and strange customs. In these descriptions and anecdotes we observe the startling juxtaposition of fundamentally different worldviews arising from two distinct religious milieux.
Van der Cruysse expertly weaves together material From journals,memoirs, and other archival documents, quoting from them extensively to construct a compelling historical account of a fascinating relationship. Originally published as Louis XIV et le Siam (Fayard 1991), this English version has been ably translated by Michael Smithies, author of numerous books and articles on the French involvement in Siam during the seventeenth century.