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The Gentle Revolutionaries is a novel based on the lives of two prominent American missionaries, Dan and Emelie Bradley, who became close friends with the famous monk, later King Mongkut. They arrived in Thailand (Siam) in 1835 and made significant contributions to Thailand’s medical, social and intellectual history. Their diaries and letters, as well as the Thai’s evaluation of them, destroys the false image of Thailand an English writer had created. The Bradleys and their missionary coworkers came from New York’s “Burned Over District,” famous for its policy of accepting women as social equals. Thai nobles basically treated missionary women as their husbands did, respectfully and warmly.

Anna Leonowens, who served as an English teacher for the children and wives of King Mongkut, later fabricated two novels about him that were bestsellers. Unfortunately, these books were innocently used as the basis for Margaret Landon’s novel, Anna and the King of Siam, which was made into successful Broadway and Hollywood musicals.

The Thai and the missionaries were so close that two missionaries negotiated Thailand’s treaties with the United States and England. Missionaries also led the battle against smallpox and inspired the Thai to replace their antiquated educational system with one similar to Western schools. The best example of the Thai/missionary mutual respect came when an American ambassador to Thailand was shocked to discover at a royal dinner with King Chulalongkorn, that not he, but a missionary wife sat at the right hand of the king.

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