At the turn of the century Siam, the kingdom that preceded the twentieth century state of Thailand, was pressured by French colonial ambitions on its eastern flank and British colonial ambitions in the northwest and south. The "delicate Siamese" sitting next to Stephen in the libary, reading "a handbook of strategy," perhaps has plans to become his nation's Ho Chi Minh.
Gifford provides a more detailed history of the concessions demanded of Siam by the European imperial powers. A Franco-Siamese "convention" in the year 1904 ratified further territorial losses, beyond the ones extorted in 1867, 1888, and 1893. An Anglo-French convention, also in 1904, defined Siam's territory relative to the British holdings in Burma and Malaysia, and the French ones in Indochina.