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John Bowring’s Kingdom and people of Siam (1857)

G. 6. 15-16

Sir John Bowring, (1792-1872) was a diplomat and former president of the Devon and Exeter Institution. In 1855 Queen Victoria charged Bowring to lead an embassy to the kingdom of Siam (now Thailand). This two-volume work details Bowring’s time in that country and is dedicated to King Mongkut, with whom Bowring established a treaty.  The agreement, however, was unbalanced and controversial: it permitted British merchants to trade in Thai ports and granted them exemption from prosecution under Thai laws; it also legalised the importation to Siam of opium, a highly addictive drug.  Bowring defended his position:

The strong argument against the abolition of the opium farm is, that it is better that the trade should be under than beyond the control of the Government.

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