Unsigned: The Letters that Spared Siam from Colonization (99,000 words)
The journey of the mystery person who wrote the unsigned letters Siam wielded to avoid colonial aggression and the historical prequel to the beloved story of Thailand’s relationship with the West, Anna and the King.
In 1854, a mystery man dropped off unsigned letters for publication in a Singapore newspaper. When the Thai royalty learned of the letter’s contents they altered their foreign policy from avoiding a treaty with the British to suddenly willing to sign. Their decision to sign finally ended British calls for diplomatic and military action against them. Siam, thus, avoided colonial aggression and rule while few other major powers in the region escaped.
AA Bastian recently surfaced a journal and letters of a little-known Mormon missionary expedition to Siam illuminating this almost unbelievable story. A Connecticut seaman, Elam Luddington, fell in with the Mormons. Several years later, in 1852, at forty-seven, he thought his days of action had ended when church officials past him over for missionary calls across the world. Then someone turned down their call allowing Luddington to take his place on a mission to Siam. His journal describes Asia at the height of colonialism from a fresh working-class perspective and unearths the journey of the author of the two unsigned letters.
Imagine Horatio Hornblower as a Mormon. AA Bastian writes a secular history in the style of Nathaniel Hawthorne meets Annette Gordon-Reed. No money, near ship wrecks, and imperial battles will not be the only dangers Luddington faces. Other Americans and Europeans have heard about those Mormons, even in Asia. Meet the man Mormons forgot.
A traditional academic at an institution would not write this book. The research crosses deep scholarly boundaries, especially between Mormon Studies, which typically resides under American or Religious Studies departments, and Asian Studies, which itself is divided. Luddington’s journey crosses the Asian academic borders between South Asia, Southeast Asia, and China studies. The canyons between these fields are precisely why the 1854 unsigned letters’ author has remained hidden for over a century and a half. Yet, combining these two fields also draws both markets to the book.
After four and a half years of piecing together primary sources from archives on three continents, award winning author, AA Bastian, reveals the identity of the person who wrote the two letters in this epic narrative history. When AA Bastian combined her passion for Asian history with her own background as a Mormon she accidentally discovered the mystery behind the most important turn of events in Thai history, and the prequel of an enduring western classic of Thailand, Anna and the King. The Journal of Burmese Studies will publish her work using Elam Luddington’s journal in Burma in June 2017, “The Other Bayonet: A New Source to Frame the Second Anglo-Burmese War”.
AA Bastian is a writer and interpreter. In 2006 she won an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest 75th Annual Writing Competition for a memoir entitled, “Japanese Carp”. She resides in the Washington, DC metro area contributing to the Washington Independent Review of Books and working as the Agent/Pitch coordinator for their annual writer’s conference. She lived in various countries in Asia and the Middle East for eight and a half years. Her writing currently centers around Asia and the Middle East. She received her master’s degree from the University of Reading in England in International Law and World Order and her bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in History with a minor in Arabic.