Chulalongkorn cho͞o´lälông´kôrn [key] or Rama Vrä´mä [key], 1853–1910, king of Siam (1868–1910). Educated in part by a British governess, Anna Leonowens, and an English tutor, he greatly advanced the Westernization of Siam (present-day Thailand) begun by his father, King Mongkut. He departed from tradition by traveling abroad—to Singapore, Java, and India in 1871 and to Europe in 1897. He abolished slavery, simplified court etiquette, initiated the practice of sending young Siamese abroad for training, set up schools, reorganized the administration of justice, laid the foundations of a sound financial policy, and built public works. He also was responsible for the centralization of Siamese administration that checked the independence of the hereditary provincial chieftains (1892). The total effect of Chulalongkorn's reforms and of the foreign policy he directed was to preserve Siam as an independent state at a time when the rest of SE Asia was falling subject to France and Great Britain, although Siam ceded its claims to Cambodia, Laos, and several Malay sultanates.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Southeast Asia History: Biographies