Future section


282nd Meeting - Tuesday, January 23rd 2007 

'Gold and Silver Roads to Chiang Mai and Shan States in 1837' 

A talk by Andrew Turton

The story starts in Moulmein in 1836, chief town of the rapidly growing little colony of Tenasserim. The large British garrison needs beef. The merchants and the East India Company want trade with China.

The Chinese Muslim traders come to Ava annually. Can they be encouraged to come to Moulmein? Can the British deal directly with the little known Shan or Lao states, variously under Burmese, Chinese or Siamese sovereignty?

Two of the most senior administrators of the colony are dispatched on separate missions, in the dry season, on elephants and horses, to make friends and open up the 'golden road of trade and friendship', which is an old Asian term of diplomacy. They are Captain William Couperus McLeod and Dr David Richardson, both seconded from the Madras Native Infantry. They have good language skills and much experience of the 1824-6 war with Burma and of traveling in the hinterlands of Tenasserim. They visit Chiang Mai, Chiang Tung, Chiang Rung, Mok Mai, Müang Nai, Müang Yong, Yawnghwe, Ava and Karen territory. They are both astute diplomats and excellent diarists.

Their journals are valuable sources of information on a great many topics and make fascinating reading. They were produced as British Parliamentary Papers in 1869 when arguments were flying about the best railway route to China from India. They were not to be edited and published until 2003 as part of the book by Volker Grabowsky and Andrew Turton 'The golden road of trade and friendship: the McLeod and Richardson diplomatic missions to Tai states in 183'7 (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2003). This volume has come to be regarded as a state of the art example of how to present and annotate such colonial literature.

Andrew Turton's talk will focus on the personal encounters between the two Anglo-Scottish soldier diplomats and the people, high and low, with whom they had dealings. It will also consider the frontier situation of British India and the Tai speaking world in this pre-imperialist moment of South East Asian history. Many other topics can be covered in the discussion following.

Andrew Turton
Andrew Turton came to Thailand in 1962 for two years as Assistant Representative at the British Council in Bangkok. He returned in 1968 for two years of anthropological research in Chiang Rai, then again in 1976 and afterwards for many shorter visits to Thailand, Laos and Sipsongpanna. He was for many years Chair of the Centre for South East Asia research at SOAS, London University, and Head of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS. He is now a Consultant Social Anthropologist with special interests in Thailand and South East Asia.

Andrew has published on many and varied aspects of northern Thai and khon müang ways of life and Thai history, culture and society, including such topics as: rural economy, local politics, vernacular architecture, invulnerability, spirit cults, slavery and pre-modern diplomacy (Siamese and English). Two recent books are 'Civility and savagery: social identities in Tai states'. London: Curzon 2000 (edited), and jointly with Volker Grabowsky 'The gold and silver road of trade and friendship: the McLeod and Richardson diplomatic missions to Tai states in 1837'. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2003. His latest publication appeared in the Journal of the Siam Society 2006 Vol. 94 'Remembering local history: Kuba Wajiraphanya (c.1853-1928), Phra Thongthip and the müang way of life'.


1) Convenor: Brian Hubbard. Email: brihubb@loxinfo.co.th; Tel./Fax: 053 40 94 18.
Address: 106/18 Moo 2 - Potharam Road, Soi Pai di-Ma di, Chiang Mai 50300

2) Secretary: Louis Gabaude: e-mail: gabaudel@loxinfo.co.th. H/O Phone: 053 11 73 19;
Mob. 087 188 50 99. H/O Fax: 053 85 04 85.

<< Back to Meeting Diary