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.
The European imperial powers repeatedly demanded territorial concessions from Siam. A Franco-Siamese "convention" in the year 1904 ratified and expanded the concessions 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.