The Interpretation of European Settlements (Portuguese, Dutch and French) on the Chao Phraya River during the Ayutthaya Era

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Naratorn Phungwong



            Ayutthaya developed after the decline of the Sukothai rule. Its early economic success came from agriculture. Later, a strong economy arose from trading. From the 15th to the 17th centuries, Ayutthaya became a fully international trading city. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to sail to Asia and Siam for spices trading. They were followed by the Dutch, VOC Company who replaced the Portuguese business. Later, French missionaries became very active in this region. The Europeans brought education, medical assistance, technology, military support, religion and new foodstuff. This interpretation shows a strong relationship developed in Ayutthaya with the Portuguese, Dutch and French who had the variety degrees of influence depending on the prevailing circumstances. The Ayutthayan kings made trade agreements and political and military alliances that bolstered and supported an often shifting and unstable monarchy. In return, the Europeans took back vast amounts of spices, forestry products, silk and other natural resources to their home nations leaving behind in Ayutthaya a rich heritage of architecture and culture, testifying to the influence of these visitors that remains part of Thai culture to this day.

            Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam for 417 years, from 1350 to 1767. Ayutthaya drew people from various nations and became an international city. In the early period, the international population was from countries in Asia such as India, Arabia, Persia, China, Malaya, Morn and other countries nearby. At the same time, Europeans were spreading into Asia to trade and expand using new sea trade routes after the overland route between Asia and Europe was closed by war with the Ottoman Empire. In 1498 Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, reached India. After 1498, Europeans needing resources began to open sea routes beyond India. They reached the source of spices in Malacca and within a few years the trading network of Portugal and other European nations had linked important ports and big cities all over Asia.

            From the reign of King Ramathibodi II (1491-1529) to the end of Ayutthaya in the reign of King Suriyamarin (1758-1767), Siam welcomed foreigners; each country seeking domination over others in each period as a result of the changing power of the mother countries themselves and the political situation in Ayutthaya.

            There are very few interpretations in concerning with people’s lives, especially the dealing with Europeans settlements during Ayutthaya period along the banks of the Chao Phraya River. This paper will review the broadly vision that Siam was always ready to receive visitors with an open mind and to provide facilities whenever the foreigners merely desired to live, trade, expand their religion or work in Ayutthaya. 

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