The Lost Territories: Thailand's History of National Humiliation
Published by: University of Hawaii Press
Imprint: University of Hawaii Press
Sales Date: 2022-06-30
Available: June 2022
264 Pages, 152.00 x 228.00 mm, 6 b&w images, 1 map
Not Yet Published
It is a cherished belief among Thai people that their country was never colonized. Yet politicians, scholars, and other media figures chronically inveigh against Western colonialism and the imperialist theft of Thai territory. Thai historians insist that the country adapted to the Western-dominated world order more successfully than other Southeast Asian kingdoms and celebrate their proud history of independence. But many Thai leaders view the West as a threat and portray Thailand as a victim. Clearly Thailand's relationship with the West is ambivalent.
The Lost Territories explores this conundrum by examining two important and contrasting strands of Thai historiography: the well-known Royal-Nationalist ideology, which celebrates Thailand's long history of uninterrupted independence; and what the author terms "National Humiliation discourse," its mirror image. Shane Strate examines the origins and consequences of National Humiliation discourse, showing how the modern Thai state has used the idea of national humiliation to sponsor a form of anti-Western nationalism. Unlike triumphalist Royal-Nationalist narratives, National Humiliation history depicts Thailand as a victim of Western imperialist bullying. Focusing on key themes such as extraterritoriality, trade imbalances, and territorial loss, National Humiliation history maintains that the West impeded Thailand's development even while professing its support and cooperation. Although the state remains the hero in this narrative, it is a tragic heroism defined by suffering and foreign oppression.
Through his insightful analysis of state and media sources, Strate demonstrates how Thai politicians have deployed National Humiliation imagery in support of ethnic chauvinism and military expansion. He shows how the discourse became the ideological foundation of Thailand's irredentist strategy, the state's anti-Catholic campaign, and its acceptance of pan-Asianism during World War II; and how the "state as victim" narrative has been used by politicians to redefine Thai identity and elevate the military into the role of national savior. The Lost Territories will be of particular interest to historians and political scientists for the light it sheds on many episodes of Thai foreign policy, including the contemporary dispute over Preah Vihear. The book's analysis of the manipulation of historical memory will interest academics exploring similar phenomena worldwide.
In terms of strengths, Strate’s book shows how Thai leaders have continuously used historical victimization by the West to galvanize popular support. Another of its strengths is the use of original research, including Thai government documents. Though the book is meant for historians of Thailand, Strate’s easy-to-understand writing style also makes it a good read for anyone. . . . the book superbly reveals how anti-Western nationalism continues to be exploited by Thai politicians and is thus a fascinating read. Asian Affairs Review
Strate’s work is important because it effectively uncovers and unites into a single framework what historians have generally treated as unconnected, epiphenomenal trends and moments in modern Thai history, connecting the dots of extraterritoriality, irredentism, and anti-foreignism. Strate is right to say that there is a paucity of historical work on Thai domestic politics during the Second World War, and he draws widely from many archival sources as well as from newspapers to paint a none-too-complimentary picture of how Thai chauvinists created the ideological atmosphere conducive to Thai imperial aspirations during the war. . . . The author provides a much-needed corrective, showing how Siam did more than merely survive, but in fact became a competitor in the imperialist game. David Streckfuss, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies (Spring 2017)
The Lost Territories: Thailand’s History of National Humiliation by Shane Strate discusses the pertinent topic of how national humiliation has been politically exploited, and thus became politically useful, in supporting ethnic chauvinism and military expansion. . . intellectually stimulating. It is easy to read. Southeast Asian Studies
The book is particularly useful, therefore, to historians and political scientists and could be helpfully integrated into analyses currently underway about Thailand’s recent political upheavals. CHOICE
The book is well researched, empirically rich and based on an impressive amount of source material collected in Thailand, France, and the US. It sheds new light on questions that are central to the historiographical debate and contributes to the current revisionist historiography. Pacific Affairs
. . . provides a refreshing new perspective on twentieth-century Thai history, particularly on Thailand's role in and around the Second World War. Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia