Many ancient Thai kings enjoy legendary reputations. Rama Khamheng (the Great), a 13th-century monarch, is traditionally regarded as the inventor of the Thai alphabet; Rama Tibodi I in the 14th century promulgated the first-known Thai laws; Trailok instituted lasting governmental reforms in the 15th century; and Phya Tak in the 18th century rebuilt a war-defeated Thailand. Two great monarchs, Mongkut (r.1851–68) and his son Chulalongkorn (r.1868–1910), became famous for introducing Thailand to the modern world. They are, respectively, the king and his young successor in Margaret Landon's Anna and the King of Siam. Further progress toward modernization was accomplished in by three outstanding premiers: Phibul Songgram (1897–1964), Pridi Banomyong (1900–83), and Sarit Thanarat (1900–63). Prince Wan Waithayakon (1891–1976), foreign minister and Thailand's representative to the UN, played a major role in diplomacy following World War II. Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn (b.1911) was leader of Thailand from 1963 until October 1973, when political protests compelled his resignation as prime minister. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (b.US, 1927) ascended the throne in 1946.
Prince Akat Damkoeng was the author in 1940 of the first modern novel written in Thailand, Yellow Race, White Race. Modern styles in painting and sculpture are reflected in the work of Chitr Buabusaya and Paitun Muangsomboon (b.1922), and the traditional manner in the art of Apai Saratani and Vichitr Chaosanket.