The history of Thailand is that of an area rather than of a single nation, and over the centuries numerous peoples have made their home in this region. The most recent were the Tai of Southern China, who migrated south in the first millennium AD, and from whom most Thais are descended.
Prehistoric Thailand was once regarded as a cultural backwater. In the Northeast of the country, however, archaeologists un covered the earliest evidence of agriculture and metallurgy in Southeast Asia. Also among the finds were ceramic pots, some dating as far back as 3000 BC, that display a high level of artistic skill.
The earliest known powers in the region were the Dvaravati Kingdom (6th–11th centuries AD), the Sumatran-based Srivijaya Empire (7th–13th centuries), and the Khmer Empire (9th–13th centuries) based at Angkor, all of which were heavily influenced by Indian culture and religion.
The Lanna Kingdom in the North and the Sukhothai Kingdom, which imported Theravada Buddhism to Thailand, in the Central Plains grew in power from around the 12th century. Of all its kings, Ramkamhaeng (1279–98) stands out: part heroic myth, part historical figure.
Sukhothai was conquered by the Kingdom of Ayutthaya – also Tai – in the 14th century. At its height ruling most of what is now Thailand, the city of Ayutthaya saw the arrival of the first Europeans. The city was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. A new city, Krung Thep (Bangkok), was built farther south, on the Chao Phraya River, and the Chakri dynasty founded. In the 19th century Kings Mongkut and Chulalongkorn modernized Thailand, and the country resisted colonization by France and Britain.
The 1932 revolution ended absolute monarchy, and in 1939 Phibun Songkram, formerly a soldier in the Thai army, changed the country’s name from Siam to Thailand. There have been a number of military coups since then, and a cycle of economic boom and bust in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2014, the military deposed Prime Minister Shinawatra and established an interim government.