13 May Header


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

Hosted by the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre

Online Event


Dr Thanyaporn Chankrajang

Dr Thanyaporn Chankrajang

Assistant Professor in Economics at Chulalongkorn University


Prof. Kent Deng

Prof. Kent Deng

Professor of Economic History and SEAC Associate, LSE

SEAC hosted a research seminar chaired by SEAC Associate Prof. Kent Deng on 13 May 2021. Dr Thanyaporn Chankrajang, Assistant Professor in Economics at Chulalongkorn University, spoke about Land, Ladies, and the Law: A Case Study on Women’s Land Rights and Welfare in Southeast Asia in the Nineteenth Century.

Talk Abstract

This seminar discussed 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.

Speaker and Chair Biographies

  • Dr Thanyaporn Chankrajang is an Assistant Professor in Economics at Chulalongkorn University. Her research interests encompass the areas of development economics and economic history. With the main focus on land property rights, she has investigated both contemporary and historical data and contexts to gain more insights into the development of land rights and their impacts. As a development economist, her research also touches upon the issues of the agriculture, education, gender and the environment. Captivated by the 19th century Southeast Asian history, Thanyaporn has expanded her research into the topics of the first wave of globalisation and the Great Depression, focusing on the implications on welfare and economic development. She received her Ph.D. in Land Economy from the University of Cambridge in 2012. She holds a B.Sc. in Economics, M.Sc. in Economics, and M.Res. in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
  • Prof. Kent Deng is Professor of Economic History at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and is a SEAC Associate. Prof. Deng's research interests and writing includes the rise of the literati in the economic life of pre-modern China; the maritime economic history of pre-modern China; the economic role of the Chinese peasantry. Other key topics in his work are the developmental deadlock of the Chinese premodern economy; long-term demography of premodern China; early modern railway development in China; Chinese fiscal state and its impact on the economy


A video of this seminar is available to watch on Facebook


Banner image is from Unsplash by Dennis Rochel.


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