"Aspects of Bangkok's Growth in the 19th and 20th Centuries"

Speaker: Dr. Porphant Ouyyanont, Associate Professor School of Economics, Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, Thailand and CSEAS visiting research fellow
Date:14:00 - 16:00, May 28(Fri), 2004
Venue: E207, East Building of CSEAS

Bangkok holds a distinct place in urban history. The city grew from a traditional dynastic foundation in 1782 to the modern primate "megalopolis" of today, and did so outside the nexus of the typical " metropolitan-colonial" structure which existed elsewhere in Asia. We can trace Bangkok's growth through three phases: a royal fortified city based on tribute; a commercial port growing through trade and immigration; and an industrial urban center based on cheap labor. Crucial in the process were three factors: (1) Bangkok's role as a government center, (2) the overall growth of Thailand's population, and (3) the physical development of Bangkok from a city based on water (river and canals) to one based on land. Key periods of transformation occurred in two particular periods, roughly from 1890 to1920, and again from around 1960-1980s.

The paper focuses upon the origins of Bangkok's emergence as a leading Thai city from the early 19th century. A key theme is to account for the transformation of Bangkok from a port- city dominated by Chinese migrants to a manufacturing center based on cheap labor. It is suggested that demographic change from the 1950s transformed the economy from one where indigenous labor was relatively expensive to one where it was relatively cheap.

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