Damrong Rajanubhab
Ditsawarakuman Damrong Rajanubhab ( 21 June 1862 – 1 December 1943) was the founder of the modern Thai
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 education system as well as the modern provincial administration. He was also a self-taught
Autodidacticism is self-education or self-directed learning. In a sense, autodidacticism is "learning on your own" or "by yourself", and an autodidact is a person who teaches him or herself something. The term has its roots in the Ancient Greek words αὐτός and διδακτικός...

 historian, and one of the most influential intellectuals of his time.

Born as Phra Ong Chao Ditsawarakuman ( - Prince Ditsawarakuman), a son of King Mongkut
Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramenthramaha Mongkut Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua , or Rama IV, known in foreign countries as King Mongkut , was the fourth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri, ruling from 1851-1868...

 with a lesser Royal wife named Chao Ghom Manda Chum, he initially learned Thai
Thai language
Thai , also known as Central Thai and Siamese, is the national and official language of Thailand and the native language of the Thai people, Thailand's dominant ethnic group. Thai is a member of the Tai group of the Tai–Kadai language family. Historical linguists have been unable to definitively...

 and Pali
- External links :* *...

 from private tutors, and English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 at the Royal School with Mr. Francis George Patterson. At the age of 14, he received his formal education in a special palace school created by his half-brother, King Chulalongkorn
Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramintharamaha Chulalongkorn Phra Chunla Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua , or Rama V was the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri. He was known to the Siamese of his time as Phra Phuttha Chao Luang . He is considered one of the greatest kings of Siam...

. He was given posts in the royal administration at an early age, becoming the commander of the Royal Guards
Royal Guards (Thailand)
The Thai Royal Guards were established by King Chulalongkorn the Great of Thailand in 1859, when he was still crown prince. Initially, the Royal Guards were servants with duties such as scaring crows, which led to commoners referring to them as the "Mahardlek Laikar," roughly translated as...

 Regiment in 1880 at age 18, and after several years working in building army schools as well as modernizing the army in general he became the deputy commander-in-chief of the army in 1887. At the same time he was chosen by the king to become the Minister of Education in his provisional cabinet. However, when King Chulalongkorn began his administrative reform programme in 1892, Prince Damrong was chosen to lead the Ministry of the North (Mahatthai), which was converted into the Ministry of the Interior in 1894.

In his time as minister, he completely overhauled the provincial administration
Provinces of Thailand
Thailand is divided into 76 provinces , which are geographically grouped into 6 regions. The capital Bangkok is not a province but a special administrative area and is included as the 77th province since it is administered at the same level as the other 76 provinces. The name of the provinces are...

. Many minor provinces were merged into larger ones, the provincial governors lost most of their autonomy when the post was converted into one appointed and salaried by the ministry, and a new administrative division — the monthon
A monthon |]], literally "circle") was a country subdivision of Thailand in the beginning of the 20th century. The Thai word 'monthon' is a translation of the word Mandala. These were created as a part of the thesaphiban bureaucratic administrative system, introduced by Prince Damrong Rajanubhab...

(circle) covering several provinces — was created. Also, the formal education of administrative staff was introduced. Prince Damrong was among the most important advisors of the king, and considered second only to him in power.

After the death of King Chulalongkorn in 1910, the relationship with his successor King Vajiravudh
Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramentharamaha Vajiravudh Phra Mongkut Klao Chao Yu Hua , or Phra Bat Somdet Phra Ramathibodi Si Sintharamaha Vajiravudh Phra Mongkut Klao Chao Yu Hua , or Rama VI was the sixth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri, ruling from 1910 until his death...

 was less smooth. Prince Damrong finally resigned in 1915 from his post at the ministry, officially due to health problems, since otherwise the resignation would have looked like an affront against the absolute monarch
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...


During the brief reign of King Prajadhipok
Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramintharamaha Prajadhipok Phra Pok Klao Chao Yu Hua , or Rama VII was the seventh monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri. He was the last absolute monarch and the first constitutional monarch of the country. His reign was a turbulent time for Siam due to huge political...

, the prince proposed that the king founded the Royal Institute, mainly to look after the National Library and the museums. He became the first President of the Royal Institute of Thailand
The Royal Institute of Thailand
The Royal Institute of Thailand , or RIT in brief, is a Thai public agency called otherwise but having the status equivalent to an independent Department which is not subsidiary to any other agency but comes under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister of Thailand.The...

. He was given the title Somdej Phrachao Boromawongse Ther Kromaphraya Damrong Rajanubhab by King Prajadhipok in recognition to his works. This became the name by which he is generally known.

In the following years Damrong worked as a self-educated historian, as well as writing books on Thai literature, culture and arts. Out of his works grew the National Library, as well as the National Museum
National Museum (Thailand)
The National Museum in Thailand is the main museum on the history of the Thai culture. The main museum is located in Bangkok on Na Phrathat Road next to the Sanam Luang, not far from Wat Phra Kaew....


After the coup d'etat
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 of 1932 which ended the absolute monarchy in Thailand, he was exiled to Penang
Penang is a state in Malaysia and the name of its constituent island, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. It is bordered by Kedah in the north and east, and Perak in the south. Penang is the second smallest Malaysian state in area after Perlis, and the...

, (Malaysia). In 1942 he was allowed to return to Bangkok, where he died one year later.

Prince Damrong is credited as the father of Thai history, the education system, the health system (the Ministry of Health was originally a department of the Ministry of the Interior) and the provincial administration. On the centenary of his birth in 1962, he became the first Thai to be included in the UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 list of the world's most distinguished persons.
His many descendants use the Royal surname Disakul.


Prince Damrong wrote countless books and articles, of which only a few are available in English translation:
  • Our Wars with the Burmese: Thai-Burmese Conflict 1539-1767, ISBN 974-7534-58-4
  • Journey through Burma in 1936: A View of the Culture, History and Institutions, ISBN 974-8358-85-2

  • Twentieth century impressions of Siam (1908) for which Prince Damrong offered advice and images
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