HRH Prince Damrong Rajanubhab (Thai including his full title: สมเด็จพระเจ้าบรมวงศ์เธอ กรมพระยาดำรงราชานุภาพ) (June 21, 1862 - December 1, 1943) was the founder of the modern Thai education system as well as the modern provincial administration. He was also a self-taught historian, and one of the most influential intellectuals of his time.
Born as a son of King Mongkut with a lesser wife, he received his formal education in a special palace school created by his half-brother, king Chulalongkorn. He was given posts in the royal administration at an early age, becoming the commander of the Royal Pages' Bodyguard 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 completed overhauled the provincial administration. Many minor provinces were merged into larger ones, the provincial governor lost most of its autonomy when it was converted into a post appointed and paid by the ministry, and a new administrative division, the monthon (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 Vajiravudh was less smooth. Damrong finally resigned in 1915 from his post at the ministry, officially due to health problems, as otherwise the resignation would have looked like an affront against the absolute monarch.
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.
During the coup d'etat of 1932 which ended the absolute monarchy in Thailand he fled to Penang (Malaysia). He died in his exile in 1943.
Prince Damrong is credited as the father of Thai history, education system, health system (the ministry of health was originally a department of the ministry of interior) and provincial administration. On his 100th birthday in 1962 he became the first Thai to be included in the UNESCO list of the world's most distinguished persons.
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 9747534584
Journey through Burma in 1936: A View of the Culture, History and Institutions, ISBN 9748358852