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Title: Gambling, the state and society in Siam, c.1880-1945
Author: Warren, James Alastair
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2007
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This study charts the evolution of government attitudes and policies towards gambling in Siam between the 1880s and 1945. Based on the assertion that gambling was a social evil that impoverished the population, encouraged crime, and retarded economic development, successive regimes sought to reduce and regulate the scope for legal gambling. This was expressed most concretely through a series of increasingly restrictive and punitive laws, which prohibited many popular forms of gambling and subjected others to strict licensing. Consequently, there was an increase in illegal gambling. In essence, gambling went from being a state acceptable activity to one that was criminal unless conducted within certain strict parameters. At the same time, the state sought to secure a monopoly over the provision of facilities for gambling in order to ensure it was the only institution that might profit from people's gambling habits. The central concern of this study is to examine the complex process by which a once socially and state acceptable activity becomes defined as criminal. It shows that the moral and economic arguments against gambling had to be balanced with a host of other concerns and, most crucially, the financial imperatives of the Siamese state. Along with the recognition that gambling was a part of human nature and people would continue to indulge in it regardless of its legality, financial necessity prevented the Siamese state from prohibiting gambling outright. This study also shows how this process was shaped by other state and semi-state institutions---namely the police force, judiciary, penal administration, and Buddhist monkhood---and public opinion. It moves beyond conventional histories of Siam, which portray the monarchy as the sole agent of change, to demonstrate that the criminalisation of gambling was a process in which all parts of Siamese society participated.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral