The primary purposes of this study are, first, to describe the major economic changes in Thailand since that country was exposed to the influence of world trade and Western culture in the middle of the nineteenth century, and second, to seek interpretations, explanations, and generalizations about that experience in so far as it is found to be repetitive or amenable to the apparatus of economic analysis. Much the greater part of the book is concerned with the first purpose.
The scarcity and unreliability of data concerning the economy of Thailand will be mentioned in several places. Here I wish merely to observe that in the course of this study I made a systematic search for information in the files of the various ministries of the government of Thailand. Officials at all levels were cordial and co-operative, and they kindly gave me much time and assistance. In this way I obtained a considerable amount of information about recent events, but I found relatively few sources of historical information other than those already known. Only the Ministry of Finance possessed extensive files going back to 1890. These records, particularly the files of the Financial Advisers, contained much valuable information. In other ministries I found only occasional bits of information for the period prior to 1910.
I had hoped to find some data in the records of long-established banks and trading firms in Bangkok, but in this I was disappointed as the important concerns had lost their records either in the war or through fire.
An effort was also made to find information about economic changes in the writings of Thai authors. Some relevant material was found in such works, but on the whole I concluded that the Thai as private individuals have not written much about the economic problems facing their country.
These comments about sources may help to explain the use of some rather questionable sources, as well as to indicate the difficulty of the task undertaken here. Information is more plentiful for the more recent decades, however, and it appears likely to become more so in the future.
An earlier version of this study was submitted to Cornell University in 1952 as a doctoral dissertation. It has undergone considerable revision since that time, principally in the interests of brevity, and the final chapter has been added.
I am indebted to a long list of individuals and organizations for assistance with this study. I cannot list all who helped, but I particularly wish to acknowledge my debt to the following persons who gave me much encouragement, assistance, and advice: Mr. Sommai Huntragul, chief of the Research Division, Bank of Thailand; Dr. Puey Ungphakorn, then in the Ministry of Finance . . .