Railway Imperialism

By Clarence B. Davis; Kenneth E. Wilburn Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

7
Thailand's Railways and
Informal Imperialism

David F. Holm

Debates on the nature of the "New Imperialism" (ca. 1880-1915) often revolve around three questions: the degree of Eurocentric push versus excentric pull, the nature of Eurocentric and excentric forces, and the extent to which they represented a fundamental discontinuity in European political economy. This chapter will adduce evidence from the history of Thailand (or Siam, as it was known until 1939) to discuss the first two issues. For Siam, from the 1880s until World War I, was one of the few countries in Africa or Asia to be subjected to both formal and informal European imperialism, much of which revolved around control of railway construction.


HISTORICAL SETTING

From the 1820s onward, Siam's neighbors fell, one by one, to European military might. After Britain had conquered Lower Burma in 1852, Siam bound itself by a series of treaties with Western nations to lift almost all restrictions from exports and imports and to tax their entry or exit at a minimal rate. Peasants in the Siamese heartland around Bangkok consequently shifted from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture and started paying a larger percentage of their taxes in money rather than in labor services.

Several factors magnified the impact of this change. Domestically, Siam was distracted from 1868 onward by a struggle between the young king, Chulalongkorn, and the aging regents. Not until 1888 was Chulalongkorn

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Railway Imperialism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Comparative Colonial Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Maps ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Introduction: Railway Imperialism 1
  • Notes 5
  • 1: Railway Imperialism in Canada, 1847-1865 7
  • Notes 23
  • 2: Engines of Empire and Independence: Railways in South Africa, 1863-1916 25
  • Notes 38
  • 3: Railway Politics and Imperialism in Central Africa, 1889-1953 41
  • Notes 65
  • 4: Profits and Visions: British Capital and Railway Construction in Argentina, 1854-1886 71
  • Notes 82
  • 5: In the Path of Progress: Railroads and Moral Reform in Porfirian Mexico 85
  • Notes 99
  • 6: Railways, Raj, and the Indian States: Policy of Collaboration and Coercion in Hyderabad 103
  • Notes 116
  • 7: Thailand's Railways and Informal Imperialism 121
  • Notes 132
  • 8: Russia, the Soviet Union, and the Chinese Eastern Railway 137
  • Notes 150
  • 9: Railway Imperialism in China, 1895-1939 155
  • Notes 170
  • Conclusion: Railways and Informal Empire 175
  • Notes 195
  • Selected Bibliography 197
  • Index 205
  • About the Editors and Contributors 223
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