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May: the papers of Reginald Le May

Reference Code: GBR/1058/MAY

Scope and Contents

The collection predominantely consists of typescripts for many of Le May's published works and drafts of unpublished works including an incomplete autobiography titled 'The Life of an Englishman', together with a small selection of correspondence, photographs and published offprints. Also included are a limited number of items belived to be from Le May's personal collection.


  • Creation: 1928 - 1964

Biographical / Historical

Reginald Le May was a British diplomat and East Asian scholar. He was the second son of hop merchant Herbert Le May and Harriet Jane Le May (née Newman), and was born on 6 January 1885 at Wadhurst, Suffolk. Le May was educated at Framlingham College from 1898-1902, during which time he won the school's Modern Languages prize, and he subsequently went on to study at King's College, London.

Le May worked as confidential clerk to the British Consulate-General in Zurich, and later served as Assistant Master at Framlingham College. In September 1906 he came eleventh in the examination for student interpretership in His Britanic Majesty's Far East Consular Service, joining the British Legation in Bangkok in February 1908. Le May served as Vice-Consul in Chiang Mai, in what was then known as Siam, from March 1913, before transferring to a similar post in Lampang, and finally Bangkok in 1917. He served as Acting Consul-General in Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in 1920, and after resigning from his post became Economic Advisor to the Siamese Government from 1922-1933. In 1934 Le May joined Pembroke as a research student, matriculating in the Michelmas Term.

Le May's extensive time in Thailand led to a lifelong appreciation for East Asian art and culture, and he authored a number of works on the subjects. A philatelist, in 1920 he published 'The Standard Catalogue of Thai Stamps', and in 1925 his own collection of Thai stamps was prepared for exhibition and donated to the National Museum, Bangkok upon the death of King Rama VI in 1925. Subsequent publications included 'Siamese Tales, Old and New' (1930); 'An Asian Arcady: the Land and Peoples of Northern Siam' (1936); 'Buddhist Art in Siam' (1938) and 'The Culture of South-East Asia' (1954).

Le May was a senior figure in the Siam Society (Thailand) for many years. He was intrumental in raising funds for the building of a permanent home for the Society in 1928, in addition to obtaining a site for the premises and enlisting the services of a leading Bangkok architect. Le May died on 22 January 1972 at the age of 87.


0.0168 cubic metre(s)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bequeathed to the College by by Reginald Le May in 1972.

Related Materials

For further papers relating to Reginald Le May, please refer to the University of Reading: Special Collections (reference codes: AUC and AURR) and British Library: Asian and African Studies (reference codes: Mss Eur F147, C275 and C567) repositories. Additionally 1 letter from Le May to Professor A. J. Arberry is held by Cambridge University Library (GBR/0012/MS Add.7891/1/285).


Throughout the catalogue countries have been referred to as they were known by Le May whilst he was conducting his research.

Duncan J. Rule
December 2023
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Pembroke College Library Repository

Pembroke College
Cambridge CB2 1RF United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 764151