The Burden of Owning Land: Habitat in Pre-Modern and Early-Modern Thailand

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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Abstract

From time immemorial until the decree of 7 April 1861, all land belonged to the Thai king. This paper explores what this meant in practice, over time. In pre-modern times, land ideally could be inherited, but this could be overruled by the king. Taking and exploiting a piece of land meant that the owner would be registered and taxed. In the Chaophraya Delta, where waterways were the dominant means of water transport, two separate types of housing developed: the house-boat and houses on rafts. The latter form of high-density living on the water was only abandoned in the second half of the nineteenth century. Finally, the question of occupying land is looked at from the perspective of the commoner.

The Burden of Owning Land: Habitat in Pre-Modern and Early-Modern Thailand

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

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References

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1)

B.J. TerwielThe Ram Khamhaeng Inscription: The Fake That Did not Come True (Gossenberg: Ostasien Verlag2010).

4)

Terwiel 2010: 98.

8)

A.B. Griswold and Prasert na Nagara“The Judgments of King Man Ray,” in Epigraphic and Historical Studies (Bangkok: Historical Society hereafter EHS): 688.

13)

Sai Aung Tun“Hkamti Shans and their Traditional Laws,” in Selected Writings of U Sai Aung Tun (Yangon: Myanmar Historical Commission 2004): 81. Sai Aung Tun adds here that the same rule applied to Myanmar cultivators and that the land was inheritable.

18)

Royal decree 7 April 7 1861. See Chatthip Nartsupha and Suthy Prasartset ed. The Political Economy of Siam 1851-1910 (Bangkok: Social Science Association of Thailand 1981): 291-6.

23)

Gaspero Balbi“Voyage to Pegu, and Observations There, circa 1583,” SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research 1(2) (2003): 33.

25)

Jean Gerard Koenig“Journal of a Voyage from India to Siam and Malacca in 1779,” Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic SocietyJanuary 1894: 158.

27)

Fred. Arthur NealeNarrative of a Residence at the Capital of the Kingdom of Siam (London: Office of the National Illustrated Library1852): 29-30.

30)

Chris Baker et al.Van Vliet’s Siam (Chiang Mai: Silkworm2005): 121.

31)

J. O’Kane trans.The Ship of Sulaiman (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul1972): 149-50. The reference to vineyards may have been a standard Persian expression for agricultural lands or the author may have made a mistake.

47)

Nijenrode in 1621says that each governor had to render his accounts every three years. Parts of this correspondence have been studied by Constance M. Wilson. See for example “The Nai Kong in Thai Administration 1824-68” Contributions to Asian Studies 15 (1980): 41-57 and “Revenue Farming Economic Development and Government Policy in Thailand 1830-1910” paper presented at the Conference on Revenue Farming and Southeast Asian Transitions Canberra 1988.

48)

For the Thai text see H. HundiusDas Nirat Müang Kläng von Sunthon Phu Analyse und Übersetzung eines thailändisches Reisegedichts (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz1976): 137.

54)

B.J. TerwielMonks and Magic (Bangkok: White Lotus1994): 137-60.

Figures

  • View in gallery
    Extract from Kaempfer’s journal, British Library, Sloane Collection, MS Sl. 2921, p. 22, as published in Terwiel 2003: 124.
  • View in gallery
    F.A. Neale’s sketch (1841), as published in Neale, 1852: 30.

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