The Chakri dynasty has reigned in Thailand since 1782. Since that time there have been nine kings, each reigning under the name Rama.
At the dawn of the 20th century, the country -- then called Siam -- was ruled by King Chulalongkorn (or King Rama V), who was the son of King Mongkut (King Rama IV), the king portrayed by Yul Brynner in The King and I.
Chulalongkorn abolished slavery and otherwize modernized the country. He died in 1910 and was succeeded by two of his sons, one after the other -- first Vajiravudh and then, in 1925, Prajadhipok.
In 1935 the throne passed to Prajadhipok's nephew Ananda Mahidol. When he died unexpectedly in 1946 (shot under unclear circumstances), his younger brother became king. That brother, Bhumibol Adulyadej, known as King Rama IX, is still alive and has reigned longer than any other living monarch. He is greatly revered in Thailand although his real power is limited.
The king and his wife, Queen Sirikit, have been married since 1950. They have four children, including one son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is heir to the throne.
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King Bhumibol Adulyadej: A Life's Work edited by Nicholas Grossman and Dominic Faulder. An illustrated biography of the king of Thailand, from his birth in America to his unexpected accession to the throne, the Cold War and Indochina War periods. Includes essays on the controversial lèse-majesté law and the succession.
The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej by Paul M. Handley. A biography that portrays Thailand's current king as an anti-democratic monarch who, together with allies in business and the military, has protected a barely modified feudal dynasty. This book is banned in Thailand.
The Revolutionary King: The True-Life Sequel to the King and I by William Stevenson. A biography of Thailand's current king. Brought up in the West, Bhumibol acceeded to the Thai throne at the age of 19. A devout Buddhist, he has fought his country's problems in his own way. The author interviewed the king and queen.
In His Majesty's Footsteps: A Personal Memoir by Vasit Dejkunjorn, translated by Busakorn Suriyasarn. The author, who served for 12 years as head of royal court security police, describes how King Bhumibol faced communist insurgencies, military coups and political turmoil.
Saying the Unsayable: Monarchy and Democracy in Thailand edited by Soren Ivarsson. Reviews the history of the modern monarchy and analyzes the forces shaping its image.
The Story of Mahajanaka by His Majesty King Bhumibol. Illustrated story of the life of King Janak of ancient Mithila, written by a modern king of Thailand.
Lords of Things: The Fashioning of the Siamese Monarchy's Modern Image by Maurizio Peleggi is about royalty in late 19th and early 20th century Siam.
Lords of Life: A History of the Kings of Thailand by HRH Prince Chula Chakrabongse. The history of the Chakri dynasty, rulers of Siam until the change of regime in 1932. The author was a grandson of King Chulalongkorn, died in 1963.
Monarchy in South East Asia: The Faces of Tradition in Transition by Roger Kershaw. The history and contemporary role of South East Asian monarchy, including Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and Laos.
Kings, Country and Constitutions by Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian is about Thailand's political development from 1932 to 2000.
A History of Thailand by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit. A general history published in 2009.
The History of Thailand by Patit Mishra. From prehistory to the modern era. Includes a timeline and a list of notable people in Thailand's history.
Thailand: A Short History by David K. Wyatt.
A History of Siam by William A. R. Wood. From earliest history to the 1930s.
Historical Dictionary of Thailand by Harold E. Smith , Gayla S. Nieminen, and May Kyi Win. Provides an overview, chronology, bibliography, and entries on important persons, places, institutions.
Descriptions of Old Siam by Michael Smithies. Writings by foreigners who visited Siam; focuses on the relationships between the Siamese kings and Westerners.
Royal Siamese Maps by Santanee Phasuk. In 1996, 18 exquisite hand-drawn maps were discovered in the Grand Palace, Bangkok. They record Siamese warfare and trade during the first three reigns of the Bangkok Period (1782-1851). This book describes the discovery, dating, characteristics, and historical significance of the maps.
The Legend of Queen Cama: Bodhiramsi's Camadevivamsa, a Translation and Commentary by Sommai Premchit and Donald K. Swearer. This early 15th century Pali chronicle, written by Mahathera Bodhiramsi, recounts the story of the founding of the kingdom of Haripunjaya in the Chiang Mai valley of Northern Thailand in the 7th century AD.
Guide to Northern Thailand: And the Ancient Kingdom of Lanna by Michael Freeman.
Ancient Capitals of Thailand by Elizabeth Moore. Between the 13th and the 18th centuries, Thailand saw the rise and fall of beautiful city states. This book presents an accessible yet scholarly account of the city states, their art and architecture, accompanied by the photography of Michael Freeman.
The Grand Palace and Rattanakosin Island by Naengnoi Suksri, photographs by Paisarn Piemmettawat. Illustrated guide to the magnificent complex of throne halls, museums and religious architecture of Thailand's Grand Palace and the surrounding island.
Palaces of Bangkok: Royal Residences of the Chakri Dynasty by Naengnoi Suksri; photos by Michael Freeman.
King Mongkut and Anna Leonowens
Worshipping the Great Moderniser: King Chulalongkorn, Patron Saint of the Thai Middle Class by Irene Stengs. Looks at modern Thailand's exalted expectations of kingship and compares the popular image of King Chulalongkorn (who died in 1910) with that of the present king, the highly venerated Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The Rise and Decline of Thai Absolutism by Kullada Ke Mead. Examines the development of Thailand from the beginning of the 18nth century, concentrating on the reign of King Chulalongkorn.
Four Reigns by Kukrit Pramoj, translated by Tulachandra. Novel about the reigns of 20th century kings Rama V (Chulalongkorn), Rama VI, Rama VII, and Rama VIII, told through the viewpoint of a girl who grows up in the royal palace.
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The Legend of Suriyothai. Directed by a prince and financed by a queen, this 2002 movie is a sprawling epic. Francis Ford Coppola shaped the original three-hour film into this 142-minute version for an international audience. The story spans two decades in the life of Suriyothai, a 16th century Thai princess. (Review © Amazon.com)