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  • Christopher G. Moore

Subject Siam

Family, Law, and Colonial Modernity in Thailand, Silkwood edition 2006, ISBN 13: 9780974-93619-6-2

I’ve finished reading Tamara Loos’ Subject Siam and can recommend it to anyone who wants insight into the cultural basis of marriage, politics and family that has become the foundation for modern Thailand. The book also is strong on the 19th century European influences in Siam.

Here are some examples of historical facts you may not know.

“Nearly all of Siam’s legal codes were drafted initially in English, not Thai. Ideas about morality, based on radically different religious and philosophical traditions, could not help but intermingle and collide.” (page 121)

“Polygyous marriages culturally enhanced the barami (merit, charisma, and virtue) of men because the number of a man’s wives and children expressed his masculinity, virility and capacity to lead.” (page 114)

There is a fair amount about traditional courtship and marriage rules as well. For instances, “A woman was considered a major wife when a man had a respected intermediary (thaokae) request her as a wife from her parents, who should be of comparable rank and wealth to his own family” (page 137). A wife who wasn’t the product of family permission was deemed a minor wife. Finally there were slave wives, women who were redeemed from indebtedness.

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