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Enchanted Land: Foreign Writings About Chiang Mai and the North of Siam in the Early Twentieth Century

In the years between 1867 and 1941, northern Siam (the present-day north of Thailand) was home to small communities of farang or western foreigners. Although they made a great impact on the region, their numbers were small: the number of farang in the north probably never exceeded 200 at any one time.

The westerners who came to live and work in the north during this period fell generally into three main categories: men and women associated with the American Presbyterian Mission in the north; the so-called “teak-wallahs” who were, properly speaking, the managers and assistants employed by those international companies that had won concessions to exploit the forests of the north; and government officials. Some of the latter were British diplomats but most were specialists of various kinds working for the Siamese government.

Reading was an important recreational activity for westerners in the north, but they also wrote. We have not only personal letters and official reports, but articles in newspapers and magazines, and also memoirs. In the years before the Great War, short stories about teak-wallahs and their lives began to appear, and later full-length novels. The present book is a selection made from these writings. Themes include not only the “enchanted land” itself but also private life and relationships.

About the speaker

Graham Jefcoate (1951) studied English and Library Science at Cambridge University and University College, London. After graduation, he worked in libraries in London before moving to take up a university post in Germany. From 1988, he worked at the British Library, becoming Head of Early Printed Collections in 1997. After briefly returning to Germany, he became Director of Nijmegen University Library in the Netherlands in 2005, remaining there until his retirement in 2011. Since then, he has published several books relating to the Anglo-German book trade and library history. In recent years, he has researched foreign communities in early 20th-century Chiang Mai and the north of Thailand. He now spends much of his time in Chiang Mai and is a long-established member of the Anglo-Thai Society and of The Siam Society.


Thursday, 14 December 2023 at 19:00


Lecture Room, 4/Floor, The Siam Society


Members and Students (to undergraduate level) — Free of charge
Non-Members — THB 200

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