Revisit old Siam and Thailand through the British Pathé film archives (1920-1950)

‘Pathe News’ produced newsreels for the British empire between 1910 to 1970 covering a wide range of world events and news items. The newsreels would be played before the feature at the cinema.

Among the videos found in its archives are those of Siam and Thailand, a curious collection for history nuts looking for a glimpse into our country’s past.

Here are a few examples and its historical context:

British Gun Boat Built for Siam

Siam was trying to rapidly modernize in the late 1920s and early 1930s to not only present itself as a civilized country to the world but because of the increasingly tense international situation in Asia. The Siam government, under King Rama VII, began a program of arms acquisitions during that time including the buying of warships from the west and Japan.

The video shows the launch of the HTMS Sukhothai, built in the United Kingdom. The ship was launched just three years before the Siamese Revolution overthrew the absolute monarchy.

Siamese King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) Visits U.S.

Just a year before he abdicated his throne in the Siamese Revolution, Rama the VII on a visit to the United States. The brilliance of British Pathe is that we are given rare glimpses into the past that history books cannot replicate. Here in this wonderful clip, we hear the monarch speaking English.

The Palace Of Spires 

From 1932, this video of the grand palace could have been taken today. Everything looks very familiar, as long as you don’t mind the slightly Orientalist title cards.

Ex-King & Queen Of Siam In Surrey

King Rama the VII after his abdication living in exile in the United Kingdom.

The Boy King 

Rama VIII as a child attending school in Switzerland.

Bangkok Demonstration 

A likely staged demonstration with the youth of Thailand protesting for the return of French Indochina holdings to Thailand. The reason it was likely staged was that most demonstrations under Phibulsongkram were staged as dissent was not allowed under the dictator. This was a show of patriotism that benefited the government.

Malaya – Siam Road

A video from the World War 2 years shows British Troops exercising in Northern Malaya and Southern Siam. Just a few weeks later and they would surrender to the Japanese forces.

Garden Party in Bangkok

A rare video from 1946 of a garden party in Bangkok featuring prominent Thais and foreign dignitaries. Also shows both Rama VIII and Rama IX arriving at the party.

Wedding and Coronation in Siam

The wedding of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit as well as Bhumibol’s coronation.

There are many more newsreels from the archives after 1950 that are well worth exploring. Most of them can be found under British Pathe on youtube.

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