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Southeast Asia's incorporation into the world rice market: a revisionist view.

The story of Southeast Asia's incorporation into the "world" -- or, more properly, Western -- rice market is well known.(1) Indeed, this story is sufficiently familiar so as almost to invite employment of the presumptuous "as every schoolboy knows" rhetorical conceit. Briefly put, the region's incorporation into this market is said to have coincided with the "New Imperialism", more or less as defined by Hobson and Lenin: the period between about 1860 or 1870 and 1900 or 1910. From small-scale beginnings in the 1850s and 1860s, Southeast Asia's extra-Asian rice trade is said to have grown dramatically in the years after 1870, quickly transforming a situation of market equilibrium into one of disequilibrium.(2)

It is argued that disequilibrium resulted from the supply response in the Irrawaddy-Sittang, Chao Phraya, and Mekong river deltas to altered market conditions. These alterations are generally construed as exogenous in nature, concomitants of a number of extraregional factors and influences. The "market-opening" imperial thrusts into Southeast Asia by the British and the French in the 1850s and 1860s are accorded causal primacy. If attention is generally focused on key episodes and events such as the British annexation in 1852 of the Burma Delta, the Bowring Treaty in 1855 between Britain and Siam, and the French seizure of Saigon in 1859, it is the general degree to which imperial penetration had succeeded by 1870 that is important in the story about rice.

Such penetration was encouraged, of course, by other external factors as well. The American Civil War and, more importantly, the demise of slavery in its aftermath, are said to have diminished, if not destroyed the export competitiveness of the U.S., the West's leading rice supplier, just as demand for small grains in the West was surging as a result of rising population and income, as well as urbanization and industrialization. Moreover, two key developments in the transport sector -- the advent of the steamship and the opening in 1869 of the Suez Canal -- led to a sizable reduction in transoceanic shipping costs, and, in so doing, further enhanced Southeast Asia's competitive position in world rice markets in the period after 1870. Taken together, these factors were powerful indeed, at once altering the world rice market to a considerable degree, and creating conditions necessary and sufficient for Southeast Asia's incorporation into that market.(3) Or so we long have been told in any case.

There are any number of temporal and contextual problems with the conventional story. In my view, however, it has four key weaknesses, which together limit its analytical power and compromise its narrative integrity. The conventional story: (1) starts too late; (2) treats incorporation as a rather abrupt "event", representing a radical disjuncture in earlier trading patterns, rather than as part of a long-term process; (3) erroneously equates Southeast Asia with mainland Southeast Asia, and, then, compounds this error by failing adequately to differentiate the terms and timing of incorporation in various parts of the mainland; and (4) gives too much explanatory weight to exogenous, or at least extra-Asian, variables relating to trade and exchange rather than to endogenous factors relating to rice production in Southeast Asia itself. The goal of this essay is to retell the story in a way that overcomes these objections. First, however, a word or two about why the conventional story has had such staying power over the years. Here, we can offer several suggestive possibilities. One glance at export data from the late nineteenth century reveals, for example, that a tremendous amount of rice was, in fact, being exported from Southeast Asia to non-Asian areas in the post-1870 period. Exports to Europe from Lower Burma alone averaged 682,000 tons of clean rice equivalents annually between 1881 and 1890, while exports from Burma, Siam, and Cochinchina to areas other than Asia averaged almost 1.1 million metric tons annually between 1892 and 1901.(4) That's a lot of rice, any way you husk it! Moreover, these figures are clearly far greater than any plausible estimates of rice exports from Southeast Asia to non-Asian areas prior to that time, although it should be noted that estimates are difficult to come by for the period prior to about 1870. Indeed, a second reason for the conventional story's staying power grows directly out of this fact: prior to the "New Imperialism", data on rice exports from Southeast Asia, generally speaking, are scattered and incomplete and, thus, extremely difficult to use systematically. This problem was not solved in the late nineteenth century either, of course, but data collection, analysis, storage, and retrieval did improve significantly with the enhancement of the administrative capacities of imperial bureaucracies in the late nineteenth century.

Another factor may be involved as well. It is at least arguable that alternative stories have been impeded and/or obscured by the tripartite division of labour amongst Asian historians, who tend to concentrate on South, Southeast, or East Asia respectively. This convention has made it difficult in practice to trace trans-regional developments over time. The story I shall tell here, the Asian dimensions of which begin in Bengal and move on to insular Southeast Asia before reaching the Southeast Asian mainland, offers a case in point. This account will not completely overturn the conventional story, but it does revise it in significant ways. By way of foreshadowing, let me at this time set forth several propositions crucial to my story, propositions which in formal terms are often referred to by economic historians as stylized facts.(5) To begin with, it is important to note that Asian rice starts to play a significant role in the world rice trade in the 1790s, not in the 1850s or 1860s. Indeed, by the 1850s -- well before the Suez Canal was built, obviously, but also before the steamship played a role -- Asian rice had already outstripped rice from Western sources in the principal extra-Asian markets. Not surprisingly, we see significant declines in the relative performance of the leading rice exporters in the West, namely, the U.S., the Italian states of Lombardy and Piedmont, and Brazil. It should be noted as well in this regard that in the case of the U.S. rice industry, relative decline came well before the disruptions and dislocations occasioned by civil war and emancipation.(6) Moreover, available evidence indicates that the mercantile and financial forms, patterns, structures, and strategies characteristic of the rice trade during the age of the "New Imperialism" were largely outgrowths of commercial practices, ideas, and logic already in place by the middle of the nineteenth century. The trading companies, mercantile houses, factorages, and houses of agency were all in place, for example, and the commercial services necessary for financing, insuring, warehousing and trading rice and/or other bulky commodities were not only available, but increasingly standardized. Singapore and Hong Kong, the regional entrepots that later proved of such importance to the rice trade, were flourishing and the northern European rice-milling industry was in full swing. Finally, the plantation sector of South and Southeast Asia, a crucial source of rice demand during the age of the "New Imperialism", already commanded considerable quantities of rice in places such as Java and Ceylon. In essence, then, I am arguing that Asia's incorporation into world rice markets occurred well before the massive expansion in the late nineteenth century of exports from the Southeast Asian mainland. I say this not only because in a qualitative sense the mechanisms necessary for later expansion were in place much earlier, but because in a quantitative sense Asia was already the leading supplier of rice on world markets by the middle of the nineteenth century. Between 1841 and 1850, for example, British imports from Asia, together with Dutch imports from Java and Madura, averaged over 98 million pounds of clean rice equivalents annually, while total exports from the West's leading supplier, the United States, averaged 72.3 million pounds of clean rice equivalents annually over the same ten-year period.(7) With this in mind, it seems reasonable at this point to enquire how and why Asia's position of market supremacy came about.

One cannot understand Asia's gradual incorporation into, much less its domination of, world rice markets without some appreciation of Western demand for this cereal. If it is difficult to generalize about demand in previous time periods for any commodity or product, it is particularly so in the case of demand for rice in the West. This is true both because of the relative insignificance of rice in the West in comparison to small grains and maize, and because of its many inconspicuous and/or intermediate alimentary and industrial usages. Such difficulties notwithstanding, it seems fair to suggest that by the second half of the eighteenth century rice had been transformed from a luxury good into an everyday commodity, whence its economic importance derived.(8) Rice and/or its by-products found employment in the starch and paper industries, for example, and were used extensively in the West for animal feed. Liqueurs such as brandies and arrack often included rice among their ingredients and rice gradually gained acceptance in the brewing industry, where it was used as a substitute for various small grains. To upper and middle-class groups, rice served as a ready nutritional complement or supplement. Most scholars believe, however, that its greatest food use in the period after about 1725 or 1750 was as a versatile and cheap dietary staple, especially useful for feeding commoners and lumpen groups -- orphans, soldiers, sailors, inmates, the poor -- in the absence of, or instead of other cereals. Given such usages, it ought not surprise anyone that real or perceived quality of product was far less important in the rice market than was dearness or cheapness of price.(9) If consumer preferences and the availability of numerous substitutes rendered rice less than indispensable in the West, its relatively low price and great versatility generally made it vendible throughout the Western world. During the so-called long nineteenth century, that is, the period between roughly 1789 and 1914, which is our primary concern in this essay, we find rice being traded over a vast area stretching from Peru and Argentina to West Africa to the shores of the Black Sea. During this entire period, however, demand emanating from one region, northern Europe, was central to the workings of the Western rice trade. To be sure, substantial demand existed in areas such as North America, southern Europe, the West Indies, and Brazil, but it was the northern European market, particularly that of the various German states, that predominated.(10) So much for rice demand, then. Let us now turn to the way in which such demand was met. During the eighteenth century most of the West's rice came from British North America -- South Carolina primarily, but also from Georgia and other nearby areas -- or from the northern Italian states of Piedmont and Lombardy. Toward the end of the century, Brazil captured the Portuguese market, and Spanish and Levantine rice were traded in small quantities around the Mediterranean basin.(11)

Asian rice, too, had long been arriving in Europe, both via the Levant and via transoceanic routes, but shipments were minuscule prior to the intensification of British economic and political penetration into eastern India, particularly Bengal, in the late eighteenth century. In the aftermath of Clive's famous victory at Plassey in 1757, however, and, perhaps more to the point, his procurement in 1765 of the diwani, the right of revenue collection in Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar, we begin to see heightened flows of both capital and raw materials from eastern India to Great Britain. Included in the latter category were a variety of agricultural commodities, including rice. All of these commodities were incorporated to some degree into the world market, but the incorporation process proved exceptionally rapid in the case of indigo, and only slightly less so in the case of rice.(12)

The following statistics bear out this point. Great Britain imported about 19.5 million pounds of rice from "Asia", basically Bengal, during the 1790s, and over 44 million pounds in the eight years between 1801 and 1808. These totals represented almost 9 per cent of British rice imports during the former period, and nearly 31 per cent during the period between 1801 and 1808. Moreover, according to the political economist David MacPherson, writing in 1795, rice was the first "necessary" sent to the West from India, all previous trade consisting of articles and products "rather of ornament and luxury than of use".(13) Asian rice continued to pour into Europe -- most imports into Britain were re-exported to the Continent -- during the first half of the nineteenth century. British imports from India came to about 166.5 million pounds during the nine-year period between 1813 and 1821, for example, and available data reveal that Britain imported almost 327 million pounds of Asian rice in the 1830s and about 780 million pounds, primarily from Bengal and the newly-acquired Arakan Province in Lower Burma, during the 1840s. The above figure for the 1830s represents about 78 per cent of Britain's total rice imports during that decade, while the figure for the 1840s constitutes about 84 per cent of the total for that ten-year period, as can be seen in Table 1.(14) To what, primarily, was Bengal's rapid incorporation into Western rice markets due? In part, certainly, to aggressive entrepreneurship by British (English and Scottish) merchant capital and to aggressive action on the part of the British state. The British, let there be no doubt, meant business in Bengal.

But there were other reasons as well. Without the collaboration of Indian merchant capital, the British never would have succeeded in redirecting a (small) portion of Bengal's agricultural production to Europe. Without significant changes in Western supply and demand, however, they may not even have tried. Indeed, an unusual conjuncture of short-run and long-term factors was needed to create the context for such success.

Supply disruptions arising, first, from the American Revolution and, shortly thereafter, from the Napoleonic wars, interrupted, impeded, and, at times, completely shut off the flow of American and Italian rice in Europe. At roughly the same time, regional harvest failures and shortfalls in Europe -- the shortfails of 1795, 1800, and 1811 in England are particularly apt cases in point -- as well as broader forces related to industrialization, urbanization, commercialization, and population growth interacted to effect, if not to institutionalize, a great increase in European demand for foodstuffs and industrial crops, including rice.(15)

The impact of such factors was magnified, moreover, because at the time neither the American nor the Italian rice industry seemed especially well-positioned to boost exports significantly. The American rice industry, centered at the time in South Carolina and Georgia, was dependent upon tidal irrigation technology, and was thus restricted geographically to a narrow band of land on the coastal plain. By the 1820s some of the best land in the tidal zone was losing fertility, and the ability of planters to restore such land was compromised severely by the simultaneous expansion westward of the American cotton industry, which not only forced coastal rice planters to compete for capital with a more dynamic industry, but also siphoned a good deal of indigenous capital and entrepreneurship from the rice region itself.(16) In Italy, tenurial problems in the rice districts, and erratic harvests which made even Lombardy at times a net importer of rice in the period between 1815 and 1865, limited the expansionary prospects of the rice industry.(17)
(clean rice equivalents)

                        1831-40    1841-50

Total Imports (cwts)   3,723,02   78,312,825

Percentage of Total:

Northern Europe           0.12       0.18
Southern Europe           0.12       0.62
North America            20.52      14.26
West Indies and
Central America           0.00       0.09
South America             0.19       0.85
Africa                   78.36      83.77

TOTAL                   100.00%    100.00%

Sources: |Great Britain~ House of Lords, Sessional Papers, Session 1842, Vol.
X, pp. 312-13; House of Lords, Sessional Papers, Session 1854-1955, Vol. X,
pp. 97-99.

Note that in converting into clean rice equivalents I assume that a bushel of
rice "in the husk" weighed 45 to 50 pounds and that a quarter of rice "in the
husk" weighed 400 pounds. In addition, I employ a conservative assumption that
100 pounds or rice "in the husk", after milling, would make 60 pounds of clean

Taken together, then, these considerations help to explain a range of economic policy initiatives in the West, the goals of which were at once to increase and to rationalize the supply of foodstuffs and raw materials in Europe: the termination in 1813 of the East India Company's trade monopoly, and the gradual demise in the first half of the nineteenth century of the English corn laws come to mind in this regard. More directly, however, these considerations help to explain the growing European interest in cheap Asian rice, and Asian rice was to prove far cheaper in the West than Western rice throughout the nineteenth century, whether from Bengal or from someplace else.(18) Not long after Bengal's emergence as a supplier of rice to the West, parts of nearby Southeast Asia were also incorporated into the world rice market, beginning with the Dutch-controlled island of Java. The island had been trading directly with the West since it fell under Portuguese control in the sixteenth century, but its effective integration into the Western economy did not come about for another two centuries. Once again, we see the British involved in promoting such integration, whether through the Anglo-Dutch settlement after the American Revolution, which ended the Dutch East India Company's trade monopoly in the Dutch East Indies, or through the economic and social reforms instituted by Raffles between 1811 and 1816 when Java was under British rule. The establishment by the Dutch themselves of the so-called Preanger System in the eighteenth century and, more importantly, the Cultivation System in 1830 contributed even more to such integration. With the establishment of these systems, which essentially forced the indigenous population to produce cash crops, first, for the Dutch East India Company and, then, for the state, tropical commodities from the island such as coffee, sugar, and indigo began streaming into Amsterdam and, later, Rotterdam, thence to be distributed throughout Europe.(19)

Rice was not originally included in either system. In parts of Java, however, it seems to have been added-to the Cultivation System beginning in about 1843. In any case, the general intensification of production and Western control that the systems, and the creation of the N.H.M. (Nederlandsche Handel Maatschappij) or Dutch Trading Company in 1824, at once reflected and represented led to sizable exports of this commodity to the West as well, as illustrated in Table 2. Almost 170 million pounds of rice were exported directly from Java to Europe and America over the course of the 1830s, for example, and by the late 1830s, so far as we can tell, Java rice alone rivalled and often surpassed U.S. rice in the main northern European entrepots.(20)
(pounds of clean rice equivalents)

                     Other European
Year   Netherlands       Countries           America     Total

1825    -189,312           -189,312          189,312
1826        -                 9,792             -           9,792
1827    3,503,469           172,992             -       3,676,461
1828    9,602,470         2,211,360             -      11,813,830
1829    8,639,808           716,448          561,408    9,917,664
1830    3,120,493             4,896             -       3,125,389
1831    3,250,944           473,280             -       3,724,224
1832    2,265,216         2,975,136             -       5,240,352
1833    6,033,939         4,547,514             -      10,581,453
1834    2,701,178         1,431,264          695,232    4,827,674
1835    1,418,208         2,870,688           71,808    4,360,704
1836   11,450,330(*)      4,981,408             -      16,431,738
1837    9,681,024        10,696,128          538,560   20,915,712
1838    7,388,445(**)    17,634,521        3,945,197   28,968,163
1839   19,650,912        30,733,410        4,264,307   54,648,629
1840    9,987,143         8,874,348        1,365,440   20,226,931
1841    6,414,588(***)    5,704,493(***)   1,946,867   14,065,948
1842   13,860,358         7,033,702        2,446,368   23,340,428
1843   27,614,310        15,389,893          326,400   43,330,603
1844   17,446,141         8,961,421(***)     850,054   27,257,616
1845    9,564,087         2,123,885             -      11,687,972
1846   17,301,811(***)    7,371,526          108,800   24,782,137
1847   27,115,136         9,217,318          293,760   36,626,214
1848   30,956,428        14,133,450             -      45,089,878
1849   25,891,244        12,647,347             -      38,538,591
1850   23,977,888         7,132,493           48,960   31,159,341
1851   34,611,376         7,548,544        1,464,992   43,624,912
1852   26,710,722         4,252,448          104,448   31,067,618
1853   12,424,633         7,752,870        1,931,115   22,108,618
1854   21,069,306         4,520,999        1,088,000   26,678,305
1855   33,581,948        15,382,470          228,480   49,192,898
1856   66,758,807        17,917,583        3,052,602   87,728,992

Notes: * includes 1,534 koyangs of paddy, which would make about 3,755,232
pounds of clean rice (assuming that 1 pound of paddy was equal to 0.6 pounds
of clean rice)

** includes 60 pikuls of paddy (4,896 pounds of clean rice)

*** excluding minute amounts of paddy.

Source: G.F. de Bruijn Kops, Statistiek van Den Handel en de Scheepvaart op
Java en Madura Sedert 1825, 2 vols. (Batavia: Lange & Co., 1857-59), 2:
176-78. Note that in converting Javanese measurement units into Western
equivalents I assume that one koyang was equal to thirty pikuls (except for
1828 when internal evidence suggests that koyangs of twenty-eight pikuls were
being employed) and that one Batavian pikul was equal to 136 pounds.
Moreover, since the rice shipped from Java to the West during this period was
(partially milled) cargo rice for the most part, I use a multiplier of .8 to
transform cargo rice into clean rice equivalents. That is to say, I assume
that one pound of cargo rice was equal to 0.8 pounds of clean rice. On the
weight of Batavian pikuls during this period, see Hunt's Merchants' Magazine
15 (Sep. 1846): 328-29. On cargo rice and the derivation of the multiplier
employed above, see Cheng Siok-Hwa, The Rice Industry of Burma 1852-1940
(Singapore and Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press, 1968), pp. 9-10, fn.
One should also note that almost all of the rice included in the "Other
European Countries" category above went to northern Europe. Between 1826 and
1856 only 4,990 pickuls (542,912 pounds of clean rice equivalents) were
exported from Java and Madura to southern Europe. Finally, the heading
"America" above refers to the entire Western Hemisphere.

Nonetheless, for a variety of internal reasons, including the relative returns on other agricultural commodities, increasing demographic pressure and the concomitant threat of food shortages, and the particular configuration of Javanese rural social structure, Java was to prove inconsistent in its role as an exporter of rice to the West.(21) By the early 1830s, however, another part of Southeast Asia, Lower Burma, was being transformed into what would soon become the greatest rice-exporting region in the world.

Certain areas in Lower Burma, namely, the coastal provinces of Arakan and Tenasserim, were exporting rice almost immediately after they came under British control in 1826 and may have done so even before that date.(22) Both of these provinces became important regional exporters during the decade of the 1830s, with exports from Arakan becoming especially significant. In the fourteen years between 1831/32 and 1844/45, for example, Arakan exported an average of almost 99 million pounds of clean rice equivalents annually, as illustrated in Table 3.(23) Most of the province's exports during this period were shipped to nearby destinations in South and Southeast Asia; indeed, by the 1840s the province was rapidly becoming known as "the granary of the Bay of Bengal".(24) By the 1850s, though, Arakan rice was increasingly destined for the European market. Between 1854/55 and 1860/61, an average of 107,252 tons were exported to Europe annually from the province. This rice in all likelihood was partially-milled "cargo rice" rather than clean rice, so the above figure should be reduced by about 20 per cent to get an estimate of clean rice equivalents. Nonetheless, it is important to point out that our adjusted annual figure for Arakan -- 85,802 tons -- far exceeded total U.S. exports over the same seven-year period.(25)

Year      Paddy         Rice     Rice Equivalents
          (maunds)    (maunds)       (pounds)

1831/32     384,600    28,970       23,505,464
1832/33     562,740   175,560       45,312,872
1833/34     555,540   418,950       64,875,284
1834/35     127,050   262,650       28,517,468
1835/36     783,870   548,460       88,039,546
1836/37   1,737,841   641,010      148,039,848
1837/38   1,621,566   248,783      109,489,024
1838/39   1,364,100   331,380      102,116,814
1839/40   2,033,698   529,961      155,188,198
1840/41   2,212,968   446,941      158,229,660
1841/42   1,265,388   270,400       91,693,220
1842/43   1,310,910   392,900      104,239,220
1843/44     848,922   707,780      104,677,756
1844/45   1,484,008   942,746      158,836,542

14-year average                     98,768,637

Sources: Singapore Free Press, 19 Dec. 1844; 5 Mar. 1846. In converting to
rice equivalents, I assume: (1) a conversion factor of 100/67 between paddy
and rice; (2) a maund equal to 82 pounds avoirdupois. See Cheng, The Rice
Industry of Burma, pp. 70, 239.

Exports from Tenasserim were not as impressive, but were still substantial. A good deal of Penang's rice was supplied by Tenasserim from the early 1830s on, and, during the same decade, rice from the province was regularly exported throughout Southeast Asia, indeed, all the way to China.(26) Although we have no precise figures on rice exports from or prices in Tenasserim during the decade, we know that in the five years from 1832 through 1836, the value of rice exports from Moulmein, the province's port, averaged over 72,000 rupees annually.(27) Quantitative data are similarly lacking for the 1840s, but one source suggests that Moulmein exported almost 3 million pounds of rice to Europe alone in 1850.(28) The first good data on rice exports from Tenasserim, which begin in the mid-1850s, reveal that total exports were sizable by that time averaging almost 20,000 tons (19,658) yearly in the six years from 1856/57 through 1861/62.(29) Clearly then, if Tenasserim developed more slowly than Arakan, by the end of the 1850s it had become a major rice exporter in its own right. The importance of Arakan and Tenasserim notwithstanding, mention of the Burmese rice industry immediately calls to mind the Irrawaddy-Sittang delta. Indeed, the development of this region, which came under British rule in 1852, constitutes one of the greatest episodes of rapid agricultural expansion in modern history, rivalled in Asia only by the development a few years later of the Transbassac provinces of the Upper Mekong delta in Cochinchina. This said, one hastens to point out that it is still possible to overstate to a degree the nature of the transformation in what Michael Adas called the "Burma Delta".(30) Despite the legal ban on exports under the later Konbaung rulers, from the early 1830s at the latest, rice from Pegu and elsewhere in the delta regularly found its way to Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia.(31) Other evidence also suggests that the delta was not completely closed, much less a "natural economy", prior to the British conquest. Just after the British took control of the delta, Henry Yule reported that over the course of a one-year period "no less than 62,000 tons" of rice "clean and uncleaned" passed through one frontier customs house (at Thayet-myo), destined for the Kingdom of Ava (Upper Burma).(32) Trade of such magnitude hardly could have occurred instantaneously, particularly amongst peoples unmoved by, if not completely unfamiliar with the logic of market exchange. The British did not introduce the rice trade to the delta, in other words; rather, in legitimating and encouraging it, they created the supportive context necessary for its redirection and consequent dramatic growth.

In any case, by the late 1850s Lower Burma as a whole, encompassing the delta, Arakan, and Tenasserim, rivalled Bengal as the leading rice-exporting area in the entire world. During the 1857/58 season, for example, Lower Burma exported 344,489 tons of rice, and an average of 363,506 tons of clean rice equivalents was exported annually in the eight-year period from 1862/63 through 1869/70.(33) Comparative figures for Bengal between 1861/62 and 1872/73, a twelve-year period when the Indian state exported on average over 293,564 tons of rice annually, appear in Table 4.(34) Even more important, for our purposes, were Lower Burma's and Bengal's rice exports to the West. Lower Burma's exports to Europe alone in the years between 1865 and 1870 averaged 256,420 tons of clean rice equivalents annually, whereas Bengal's exports to the West were much smaller by that time, averaging only 60,758 tons annually for the nine-year period from 1861/62 through 1869/70.(35) Together, however, Lower Burma and Bengal, not to mention Java and other lesser exporters, were clearly shipping a huge quantity of rice to the West before the age of the "New Imperialism" even began. Thus, rather than being an "irregular" or "sporadic" supply source prior to 1850, as Norman Owen contends, Southeast Asia, indeed, mainland Southeast Asia, was a significant rice exporter by that time, and a dominant one shortly thereafter.(36) By the 1860s, mainland Southeast Asia was not only Asia's leading rice supplier, but also by far the greatest supplier of rice to the West. This was the case, it should be noted, even before Siam or Cochinchina exported rice in a major way to areas beyond Southeast Asia other than China and Hong Kong.(37)

That Siam and Cochinchina do not play prominent roles in the early chapters of our story tells us something about the story's tempo and about the setting in which it takes place, for it is useful in some ways to view Southeast Asia's incorporation into the world rice market as a sequential process, wherein insular areas (Java and Bali) and areas along the Bay of Bengal (Arakan, Tenasserim, and the Burma Delta) were incorporated rather early, and the areas on the South China Sea (Siam and Cochinchina) rather late.(38) This sequence was due in part, of course, to the timing of Europe's imperial thrust eastward, but also in part to geography and culture, and to pre-colonial trading patterns in Southeast Asia. Given our purposes here -- to establish the genealogy of incorporation, as it were -- it must suffice to say that the rice trade from Siam and Cochinchina was heavily Sinicized both in terms of commercial orientation and of personnel, which, generally speaking, was not the case (in the nineteenth century at least) in parts of Southeast Asia west of the Malacca Straits.(39) Not surprisingly, Singapore, located in the centre of Southeast Asia, was vital to the entire incorporation process, serving as the linchpin of the rice trade as entrepot, distribution centre, and intermediary between Southeast Asian producers and consumers both inside and outside of the region. Hong Kong played a similar, if far lesser role further east.(40)
1861-62 THROUGH 1872-73

                Exports          Total          Export to West
Year          to the West    Foreign Exports     as % of Total

1861-62         129,655         341,198             38.00
1862-63          72,139         407,793             17.69
1863-64          53,345         388,814             13.72
1864-65          26,344         403,432              6.53
1865-66          32,559         255,167             12.76
1866-67(*)       24,054         160,357             15.40
1867-68         110,810         268,892             41.21
1868-69          57,485         254,244             22.61
1869-70          40,433         190,093             21.27
1870-71          65,588         244,916             26.78
1871-72          77,158         252,812             30.52
1872-73          89,687         355,054             25.26

                779,257       3,522,772             22.12

* eleven months

Disaggregated Exports to West as % of Total Exports

              United                      N. & S.    West    Western
Year         Kingdom   France   Germany   America   Indies    Total

1861-62      24.09      4.56     2.04      5.46      1.85     38.00
1862-63      11.39      1.19     1.21      2.62      1.28     17.69
1863-64       9.39      0.70     0.35      2.12      1.16     13.72
1864-65       2.46      0.26     0.12      1.85      1.84      6.53
1865-66       8.40      0.15      -        0.47      3.74     12.76
1866-67(*)    7.89      0.30      -         -        7.21     15.40
1867-68      32.59      0.80     0.90      0.03      6.89     41.21
1868-69      16.57      0.56      -        0.73      4.75     22.61
1869-70      10.68      1.39      -        1.73      7.47     21.27
1870-71      18.43      0.65     0.18       -        7.52     26.78
1871-72      21.15      0.47     0.17      0.53      8.20     30.52
1872-73      15.61      0.02      -        1.49      8.14     25.26

* eleven months

Source: H.J.S. Cotton, "The Rice Trade of the World", The Calcutta Review 58
(1874): 267-302, esp. pp. 274-75. For detailed figures on Indian rice exports
to the West between 1877 and 1915, see Sir William Wilson Hunter, The Indian
Empire: Its Peoples, History, and Products, 3d ed. (London: Smith, Elder &
Co., 1893), p. 686; Imperial Institute, Indian Trade Enquiry, Reports on Rice
(London: John Murray, 1920), pp. 8, 36-38.

The ability of Singapore (and Hong Kong) to perform such functions was at once based upon, and greatly facilitated by a series of developments in transportation, logistics, and commercial organization and communications. Although several relatively late developments, such as the advent of the steamship, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the laying of submarine telegraph cables in Southeast Asia, have received a great deal of scholarly attention over the years, a number of earlier and often less obvious innovations were important as well.(41)

Technological and organizational improvements in transoceanic shipping, in particular improved sail and vessel design, reduced the time ships spent in port, while the Pax Britannica meant that ships carried fewer guns and, hence, smaller crews, which cut shipping and insurance costs between Southeast Asia and the West, and helped make trade in bulky commodities like rice not only feasible but profitable.(42) Enhanced pilotage services, specialized warehousing, reductions in landing fees and other improvements in Southeast Asian port facilities, along with investment in infrastructure along heavily travelled shipping lanes, provided further support to such trade.(43) The creation of a system of lighthouses in the Malacca Straits between 1849 and 1874 is but one example of this type of infrastructural investment.(44)

The geographical extension of mercantile networks in the region -- in addition to various middlemen involved in assembling paddy for export, there were a large number of commercial houses in Akyab by 1840, and at least eight in Moulmein by 1846 -- and the extension and elaboration of networks for gathering, processing, and disseminating commercial information helped too.(45) Examples of networks of the latter type abound, but the establishment in Southeast Asia of packet and postal services, weekly and, in some cases, semi-weekly newspapers and prices current, as well as regional mercantile directories and gazetteers come readily to mind.(46) Each of the commercial developments mentioned above was well under way by the 1850s, the decade which also brought the introduction of Southeast Asia's first steam-powered rice mill.(47) One point about Southeast Asia's incorporation into the world rice market still remains. As suggested earlier, the conventional story places a great deal of emphasis on the alteration in market conditions evoked by such factors as imperial expansion, the American Civil War, increased Western demand, and reduced transport costs, which factors are said to have led to disequilibrium in the world rice market, which, in turn, elicited a rapid and robust response on the part of Southeast Asian suppliers.

It is the context for this supply response that requires further elaboration. Why? Simply put, because the disequilibrating phenomena specified above were general in nature rather than rice-specific. As such, they affected markets for other goods and commodities as well.

A number of agricultural commodities -- cotton, tobacco, and rice are perhaps the most prominent -- were economically important both in temperate regions of the West and in tropical areas of Asia. Despite the aforementioned market alterations, producers of cotton and tobacco in the temperate West were able to beat back competition from tropical Asia, and, thus, to retain their market positions in the West. Only in the case of rice did producers in tropical Asia displace Western producers in Western markets. They did so in this case, as Nobel Prize-winning economist W. Arthur Lewis among others has noted, because rice production in tropical Asia, unlike cotton and tobacco production there, was not necessarily marked by low relative productivity.(48) The total factor productivity among Burmese peasant producers, measured in standard Cobb-Douglas form, was roughly on a par with that of slave labourers on "modern", capital-intensive plantations in the South Atlantic region of the United States. Under static neoclassical assumptions, that is to say, Burmese rice producers were competitive with U.S. producers in the nineteenth century.(49) As the world rice market was altered, and I have argued here that the alterations were both more varied and less sudden than the conventional story holds, comparative advantage gradually shifted in favor of parts of tropical Asia. But it was the basic productive efficiency of Asian rice producers that made such alterations matter.

Alternative explanations of Southeast Asia's incorporation into the world rice market, invoking the geometry of imperialism, the articulation of productive modes, or that old standby, unequal exchange fail to explain the vastly different trajectories of tropical Asian cotton and tobacco, on the one hand, and of tropical Asian rice, on the other. In the last analysis Lewis was probably correct in citing low productivity as the main reason for the inability of tropical producers to compete with temperate producers in cotton and tobacco. The stunning success of Southeast Asia in world rice markets, as Lewis himself noted, may well have been the exception that proves the rule.(50) 1 In this article, the term "West" is used to denote Europe (including the Mediterranean littoral and Russia west of the Urals), the Americas, the Atlantic islands, and Africa west of the Cape of Good Hope.

2 See, for example, Randolph Barker, Robert W. Herdt, with Beth Rose. The Rice Economy of Asia, 2 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future, 1985), 1: 186-87; A.J.H. Latham and Larry Neal, "The International Trade in Rice and Wheat, 1868-1914", Economic History Review, 2d ser., 36 (1983): 260-80: Norman G. Owen, "The Rice Economy of Mainland Southeast Asia 1850-1914", Journal of the Siam Society 59 (1971): 75-143.

Most national studies accept this basic story as well, albeit with certain qualifications. In her study on Burma, for example, Cheng Siok-Hwa acknowledges the fact that Burma exported rice in large quantities prior to the opening of the Suez Canal; she fails, however, to connect the development of Burma's export trade to earlier developments in South and Southeast Asia. This distinguishes her approach from that of Latham and Neal, who are aware of Bengal's prominence as a rice exporter in the 1860s, but fail to explain this prominence or its relationship to developments in Southeast Asia. See Cheng, The Rice Industry of Burma 1852-1940 (Kuala Lumpur and Singapore: Malaya University Press, 1968), pp. 1-15; Latham and Neal, "The International Trade in Rice and Wheat". The standard historical accounts of the Siamese and Cochinchinese rice industries make only brief mention of the early export trade before moving on to post-1870 developments. See James C. Ingram, Economic Change in Thailand 1850-1970 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1971), pp. 37-43; Albert Coquerel, Paddys et Riz de Cochinchine (Lyons: Imprimerie A. Rey, 1911), pp. 203-224 especially.

3 See Barker et al., The Rice Economy of Asia, 1: 186-87; C.J. Robertson, "The Rice Export from Burma, Siam and French Indo-China", Pacific Affairs 9 (1936): 243-53.

4 Cheng, The Rice Industry of Burma, p. 239; Barker et al., The Rice Economy of Asia. 1: 187. The data in Barker et al. are derived from material collected by Norman Owen. See Owen, "The Rice Industry of Mainland Southeast Asia", Table II-A. Note that I will be employing various units of measurement in essay when discussing rice exports. Data limitations rendered it impossible to convert all figures found in primary sources to one standard measurement unit. For this reason, I have generally employed the measurement unit used in the sources themselves, unless I had reason to convert with confidence. 5 This "stylized" argument is developed in much more detail in Peter A. Coclanis, "Distant Thunder: The Creation of a World Market in Rice and the Transformations It Wrought", American Historical Review 98, No. 4 (Oct. 1993).

6 See Coclanis, "Distant Thunder"; Coclanis, The Shadow of a Dream: Economic Life and Death in the South Carolina Low Country, 1670-1920 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 133-38 especially.

7 These figures were calculated from data in U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Statistics, Rice Crop of the United States, 1712-1911, by George K. Holmes, Circular 34 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1912), pp. 7-9, and from the sources cited in Tables 1 and 2.

8 Coclanis, "Distant Thunder". On the demand for rice for Western-controlled plantations (and mines) in Southeast Asia, see, for example, A.J.H. Latham, The International Economy and the Undeveloped World 1865-1914 (London: Croom Helm, 1978), pp. 75-94. On early imports into Java and Madura of rice, "not in the husk" -- which rice, according to W.L. Korthals Altes, was intended almost exclusively for the indigenous population -- see W.L. Korthals Altes, Changing Economy in Indonesia, Volume 12a: General Trade Statistics 1822-1940 (Amsterdam: Royal Tropical Institute, 1991), Table 5A, pp. 104-112. For an idea of the scale of Ceylon's rice imports by the middle of the nineteenth century, see |Singapore~ Straits Times. 9 Jul. 1850.

9 On the uses of rice in Europe and the Americas in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, see James Glen, A Description of South Carolina . . . (London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1761), p. 91; Nicolas Baudeau, . . . Commerce . . ., 3 vols. (Paris: Panckouke, 1783-1784), 3: 588-89; Court of Directors to Governor General and Council at Fort William, 5 Apr. 1793, in Indian Records Series: Fort William-India House Cot respondence . . . (Public Series), 21 vols. (Delhi: Published for the National Archives of India by the Controller of Publications, Government of India, 1949-1985), vol. XII: 1793-95, p. 55; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3d ed., 20 vols. (Edinburgh: Printed for A. Bell and C. MacFarquhar, 1797-1801), Supplement II (vol. 20), p. 462; |Great Britain~ House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century, Reports and Papers, vol. 131: George III, Food Supply, Fisheries 1799-1800 and 1800, ed. by Sheila Lambert (Wilmington, Dela.: Scholarly Resources, 1975), pp. 65-68, 353-58, 367-73, 445-65, 519-22; |London~ The Times, 9 Nov. 1811. Also see Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, 3 vols., trans. Sian Reynolds (New York: Harper & Row, 1981-84), 1: 109-114, 145-58. Europeans consumed rice both in boiled form and after converting it into flour. 10 Coclanis, "Bitter Harvest: The South Carolina Low Country in Historical Perspective", Journal of Economic History 45 (1985): 251-59; Coclanis, The Shadow of a Dream, pp. 133-35, 277-79; R.C. Nash, "South Carolina and the Atlantic Economy in the Late Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries", Economic History Review, 2d ser., 45 (1992): 677-702.

11 Coclanis, The Shadow of a Dream, pp. 133-35; Luigi Faccini, L'economia risicola lombarda dagli inizi del XVIII secolo all' Unita (Milan: SugarCo., 1976), pp. 23-26 and passim.

12 On Great Britain's economic penetration of Bengal in the eighteenth century, see, for example, P.J. Marshall, East Indian Fortunes: The British in Bengal in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1976). On the incorporation of the Indian indigo industry into the world market, see Dauril Alden, "The Growth and Decline of Indigo Production in Colonial Brazil: A Study in Comparative Economic History", Journal of Economic History 25 (1965): 35-60; Marshall, East Indian Fortunes, pp. 153-54. On rice, see infra. On eastern India's rice trade prior to British penetration, see S. Arasaratnam, "The Rice Trade in Eastern India 1650-1740", Modern Asian Studies 22 (1988): 531-49.

13 The figures appearing in the text were derived from data in Customs 17. Customs Office Records, Public Record Office, London, England. For a complete statistical account of British rice imports in the 1790s and in the 1801-1808 period, see Coclanis, "Distant Thunder", Table 1. David MacPherson's quote is from his Annals of Commerce . . ., 4 vols. (London: Nichols and Son, 1805), 4: 362.

14 See John Phipps, A Guide to the Commerce of Bengal . . . (Calcutta: 1823), pp. 211, 223-24; |Great Britain~ House of Lords, Sessional Papers, Session 1842, vol. X, pp. 312-13; House of Lords, Sessional Papers, Session 1854-1855, vol. X, pp. 97-99. For additional data on East Indian rice imports into England during this period, see |Great Britain~ House of Commons Parliamentary Papers 1828, vol. XVIII: 379-86; Robert Montgomery Martin, History of the Colonies of the British Empire . . . (London: W.H. Allen & Co., 1843), pp. 352-54. 15 See Coclanis, "Distant Thunder".

16 See David O. Whitten, "American Rice Cultivation, 1680-1980: A Tercentenary Critique", Southern Studies 21 (1982): 5-26; Coclanis, The Shadow of a Dream, pp. 133-58.

17 Ira A. Glazier, Il commercio estero del regno Lombardo-Veneto del 1815 al 1865 (Rome: 1966), pp. 30-45 and passim; Elda Gentili Zappi, If Eight Hours Seem Too Few: Mobilization of Women in the Italian Rice Fields (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), pp. 1-7. Also see H.A. Tempany, "The Italian Rice Industry", Malayan Agricultural Journal 20 (1932): 274-92.

18 On rice prices, see Coclanis, "Distant Thunder"; Latham and Neal, "The International Trade in Rice and Wheat", pp. 276-77 especially. On the price differentials between "Carolina" rice and East Indian rice in the first half of the nineteenth century, see the collection of "Prices Current" from Liverpool and Rotterdam in the Enoch Silsby Collection, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.

19 On the Preanger System and the Cultivation System, see, for example, J.S. Furnivall, Netherlands India: A Study of Plural Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1939), pp. 115-47. A considerable body of literature on these systems exists, and in the last two decades a group of so-called revisionists, centred in the Netherlands, has rejuvenated research on the latter system. For perhaps the best recent survey on the Cultivation System see Cornelis Fasseur, The Politics of Colonial Exploitation: Java, the Dutch, and the Cultivation System, trans. R.E. Elson and Ary Kraal, ed. R.E. Elson (Ithaca: SOutheast Asia Program, Cornell University, 1992).

20 See G.F. de Bruijn Kops, Statistiek van Den Handel en de Scheepvaart op Java en Madura Sedert 1825, 2 vols. (Batavia: Lange & Co., 1857-59), 2: 176-80; U.S. Senate Executive Documents, 2d Session, 25th Congress, 1837-1838, No. 318; U.S. Senate Executive Documents, 3d Session, 25th Congress, 1838-1839, No. 342. On Java's rice exports between 1831 and 1840, also see Singapore Free Press, 17 Jun. 1841. According to de Bruijn Kops, Javanese rice exports to Northern Europe averaged 293,442 pikuls annually between 1837 and 1839. Upon conversion to Western measures, this means that Java exported, on average, over 39.9 million pounds of (partially milled, cargo) rice annually to this area during this three-year period. Data available in the Senate Executive Documents reveal that the United States exported about 25.7 million pounds of clean rice equivalents annually to Northern Europe in 1837 and 1838, with another 1 million pounds annually going to Southern Europe. Under the conservative assumption that 1 pound of cargo rice at the time equaled 0.8 pounds of U.S. clean rice, we find that Java was already exporting more rice to Northern Europe than the United States was sending to Europe as a whole.

On the inclusion of rice in the Cultivation System, see Fasseur, The Politics of Colonial Exploitation, pp. 73-78.

21 See Korthals Altes, Changing Economy in Indonesia, Vol. 12a, Table 6A, pp. 142-47 especially; W.R. Hugenholtz, "Famine and Food Supply in Java 1830-1914", in C.A. Bayly and D.H.A. Kolff, eds., Two Colonial Empires: Essays on the History of India and Indonesia in the Nineteenth Century (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1986), pp, 155-88.

22 For information on the early rice trade from these areas, see, for example, Singapore Chronicle, 25 Apr, 1833; Singapore Free Press, 16 Feb. 1837.

23 Singapore Free Press, 14 Dec. 1837; 21 Oct. 1841; 19 Dec. 1844; 5 Mar. 1846. 24 Singapore Free Press, 23 Oct. 1845; 6 Dec. 1849; Straits Times, 4 Dec. 1849; |H.R. Spearman~, British Burma Gazetteer, 2 vols. (Rangoon, 1880), 1: 460. The quotation in the text is from an essay appearing in the first source cited here. The essay originally appeared in |Calcutta~ The Friend of India, 2 Oct. 1845. 25 |Spearman~, British Burma Gazetteer, 1: 462. For U.S. export figures, see United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Statistics, Rice Crop of the United States 1712-1911, pp. 7-9.

26 Singapore Chronicle, 25 Apr. 1833; 29 Mar. 1834; 19 Sep. 1835; 15 Jul. 1837; Singapore Free Press, 28 Jan. 1836; 17 Nov. 1836; 16 Feb. 1837; 9 Mar. 1837; 5 Oct. 1837.

27 Singapore Free Press, 14 Dec. 1837. The figures on the value of Moulmein's rice exports appeared originally in the Moulmein Chronicle, 21 Oct. 1837.

28 |Spearman~, British Burma Gazetteer, 1: 461. According to Spearman, Moulmein shipped 18,058 bags of rice to Europe in 1850. A bag at the time contained about 164 pounds of rice. See Straits Times, 10 Jan 1846.

29 |Spearman~, British Burma Gazetteer, 1: 462.

30 Michael Adas, The Burma Delta: Economic Development and Social Change on an Asian Rice Frontier, 1852-1941 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1974). On the development of the Transbassac region, see, for example, Coquerel, Paddys et Riz de Cochinchine, pp. 107-130, 203-224, and tables following page 224 especially.

31 Singapore Chronicle, 31 Jan. 1833; 28 Aug. 1834; 17 Jan. 1835; 20 Jun. 1835; 15 Jul. 1837; Singapore Free Press, 8 Oct. 1835. Note that by 1846 official British trade statistics include a category for rice imported from the "Birman Empire". See |Great Britain~ House of Lords, Sessional Papers, Session 1854-1855, Vol. X, pp. 97-99.

32 Captain Henry Yule, A Narrative of the Mission . . . to the Court of Ava in 1855 . . . (London: Smith, EIder, and Co., 1858), pp. 202-203, 362-63. For an account of Burmese cultivation techniques at the time, see Christopher T. Winter, Six Months in British Burmah: Or, India Beyond the Ganges in 1857 (London: Richard Bentley, 1858), pp. 103-104.

33 H.J.S. Cotton, "The Rice Trade in Bengal", The Calcutta Review 58 (1874): 171-88, especially p. 173; Cheng, The Rice Industry of Burma, p. 237. For a slightly higher estimate of Burma's projected exports for 1857/58, see letter, ? |probably Mohr Brothers & Co.~ to Messrs. Augustine Heard & Co., 28 Aug. 1857, Prices Current Collection, Box 14, Folder "Rice, General, 1857-1870", Special Collections, Baker Library, Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, Boston, Mass.

34 Cotton, "The Rice Trade of the World", The Calcutta Review 58 (1874): 267-302, especially pp. 274-75.

35 Cheng, The Rice Industry of Burma, p. 239; Cotton, "The Rice Trade of the World", pp. 274-75.

36 Owen, "The Rice Industry of Mainland Southeast Asia", p. 83.

37 On Siamese and Cochinchinese export patterns, see Owen, "The Rice Industry of Main~and Southeast Asia", Table II-A, pp. 97-101; Table II-B, pp. 102-103; Barker et al., The Rice Economy of Asia, 1: 187.

38 See the sources cited in note 37. Note that I am not arguing that Siam and Cochinchina were also latecomers to the Asian rice trade. Both Siam and Cochinchina were important sources of rice for deficit areas in Asia throughout the period covered in this essay. Note, too, that my argument here refers to direct exports from Siam and Cochinchina to the West; some rice from these places ended up in Europe even in the first half of the nineteenth century, having been reconsigned there from Singapore. On this matter, see Ingram, Economic Change in Thailand, p. 42.

39 See Latham and Neal, "The International Trade in Rice and Wheat"; Latham, "From Competition to Constraint: The International Rice Trade in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries", Business and Economic History, 2d ser., 17 (1988): 91-102; Charles Robequain, The Economic Development of French Indo-China, trans. Isabel A. Ward (London: Oxford University Press, 1944), pp. 305-343; G. William Skinner, Chinese Society in Thailand: An Analytical History (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1957), pp. 99-109; Hong Lysa, Thailand in the Nineteenth Century: Evolution of the Economy and Society (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1984), pp. 38-74, 149-52; Suehiro Akira, Capital Accumulation in Thailand 1855-1985 (Tokyo: The Centre for East Asian Cultural Studies, 1989), pp. 16-41, 46-51, 71-90.

As early as the 1850s John Bowring commented on the dominance of Chinese merchants in Siam. See Sir John Bowring, The Kingdom and People of Siam . . ., 2 vols. (London: John W. Parker & Son, 1857), 1: 241-43.

40 Latham and Neal, "The International Trade in Rice and Wheat"; Latham, "From Competition to Constraint"; W.G. Huff, "Bookkeeping Barter, Money, Credit, and Singapore's International Rice Trade, 1870-1939", Explorations in Economic History 26 (1989): 161-89.

41 Latham and Neal, "The international Trade in Rice and Wheat"; Latham, "From Competition to Constraint".

42 See, for example, Douglass C. North, "Ocean Freight Rates and Economic Development 1750-1913", Journal of Economic History 18 (1958): 537-55, North, "Sources of Productivity Change in Ocean Shipping, 1600-1850", Journal of Political Economy 76 (1968): 953-70; Daniel R. Headrick, The Tentacles of Progress; Technology Transfer in the Age of Imperialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 18-23 especially.

Maritime insurance rates for vessels departing Singapore fell over the course of the nineteenth century. One can trace this development and, in addition, see the increased sophistication of rate-setting procedures over time by comparing information on premia, which were published regularly in Singapore newspapers and directories. See, for example, Singapore Chronicle, 26 Mar. 1836; Singapore Free Press, 10 May 1838; 6 Sep. 1838; 7 Jan. 1841; 9 Mar. 1843; 10 Oct. 1844; Straits Times, 4 Feb. 1846; Singapore Free Press, 30 Apr. 1846; Straits Times, 10 Jul. 1849; Singapore Free Press, 1 Mar. 1850; Straits Times, 4 Feb. 1851; The Straits Calendar and Directory for the Year 1862 . . . (Singapore: The Commercial Press, 1862), pp. 60-62; The Straits Calendar and Directory for the Year 1870 . . . (Singapore: The Commercial Press, 1870), pp. 109-114; The Straits Calendar and Directory, (including Sarawak and Labuan) for the Year 1871 (Singapore: The Commercial Press, 1871), pp. 109-114. 43 Singapore Free Press, 13 Feb. 1852; Straits Times, 11 Jan. 1853; Singapore Free Press, 17 Mar. 1854; 12 Apr. 1855; Straits Times, 24 Jan. 1863; Singapore Free Press, 5 Jan. 1865; The Straits Calendar and Directory, for the Year 1863 . . . (Singapore: The Commercial Press, 1863), Appendix, pp. XXII-XXIII; The Straits Calendar and Directory for the Year 1870, Appendix, "Revised Scale of charges for receiving, landing, or shipping goods . . . and for storage . . . ." Also see Huff, "Bookkeeping Barter".

44 The Singapore Directory for the Straits Settlements 1877 . . . (Singapore: The Straits Times, 1878), pp. 117-18. For evidence of further improvements to this system, see The Singapore and Straits Directory for 1882 . . . (Singapore: Printed at the Singapore and Straits Printing Office, 1882), Appendix F. 45 The Straits Times Almanack, Calendar and Directory for the Year 1846 . . . (Singapore: The Straits Times Press, 1846), p. 104; Singapore Free Press, 6 Dec. 1849; B.R. Pearn, A History of Rangoon (Rangoon: American Baptist Mission Press, 1939), pp. 133-37, 156-60, 207-21; Cheng, The Rice Industry of Burma, pp. 77-78. The establishment in 1837 of the Singapore Chamber of Commerce is but one -- relatively minor -- example of the type of "networking" I have in mind. 46 For example, in Singapore, the regional entrepot, newspapers date from the 1820s and commercial directories from the 1840s.

47 Ingram, Economic Change in Thailand, p. 70. This mill, named the American Steam Mill Rice Company, was not very successful initially, changing ownership several times in its first few years of operation. For details on the mill's specifications, see Singapore Free Press, 22 Oct. 1863.

48 W. Arthur Lewis, Growth and Fluctuations 1870-1913 (London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1978), pp. 201-202 especially. A number of other authorities, working in disciplines ranging from economics to anthropology, have also written on the relative efficiency of traditional rice cultivation in parts of tropical Asia. See, for example, Francesca Bray, The Rice Economies: Technology and Development in Asian Societies (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986). For the classic statement of the "efficient but poor" thesis regarding traditional agriculturalists in Asia and elsewhere, see Theodore W. Schultz, Transforming Traditional Agriculture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964).

49 John Komlos and Peter Coclanis, "Time in the Paddies: A Comparison of Rice Production in the Southeastern United States and Lower Burma in the Nineteenth Century", Social Science History 11 (1987): 343-54.

50 Lewis, Growth and Fluctuations, pp. 201-202.
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Author:Coclanis, Peter A.
Publication:Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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