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REGISTER NOW FOR SEAC Seminar Series: Land, Ladies, and the Law: A Case Study on Women's Land Rights and Welfare in Southeast Asia in the Nineteenth Century
Register now for SEAC’s first event of Summer Term! This seminar, chaired by Professor Kent Deng, featuring Dr Thanyaporn Chankrajang (Assistant Professor, Chulalongkorn University)
Thursday 13 May, 2-3.30pm BST
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This seminar will discuss women’s de jure and de facto land rights and its implications for household welfare in nineteenth-century Bangkok. Women constituted a significant share of agricultural landowners holding government-issued land deeds in central Siam—a pattern that stands in contrast to both historical and contemporary developing economy contexts where the structure of land rights often favours men. We find through both direct and indirect evidence that women’s de jure rights were upheld in practice. Women made significantly more agricultural investments than male or mixed-gender owners, which supports the assertion that women perceived their land rights as secure under Siam’s traditional usufruct land rights system. An assessment of land-related court cases directly supports our claim, showing that women in Siam had access to legal representation and were protected when their land rights were challenged by investors and local elites in the context of high demand for both agricultural and urban land. Such secure land rights helped preserve women’s livelihoods as agriculturists and household wellbeing. We estimate that the median woman-owned orchard could support ten adults annually, achieving a standard of living comparable to unskilled labourer households in Beijing and Milan during the same period.