The 13th Asia Pacific Research Prize (Iue Prize) “Commendation” winner:
Dr. Atsushi Kobayashi

Title of Dissertation :
“Development of Intra-Southeast Asian Trade in the Nineteenth Century: With Reference to the Role of Singapore”

Picture : Dr. Atsushi Kobayashi
Dr. Atsushi Kobayashi

- Career -

Atsushi Kobayashi is a Research Fellow of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and Visiting Scholar at National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. After graduating from Faculty of Literature of Tsukuba University in 2009, he entered Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University. Afterward, he acquired a Ph. D. degree from Kyoto University in 2014. His research field is Southeast Asian Area Studies, Asian Economic History.

- Summary -

Previous studies have discussed that the growth of modern Southeast Asian trade was driven by Western Impact, such as Western colonization and unequal treaty system, in the late nineteenth century. In contrast to this prevailing view, this doctoral thesis purposes to show that development of Intra-Southeast Asian trade from the 1820s led to the autonomous integration of the region into the world economy in the nineteenth century and Singapore played important role for that.

The first part of the thesis aims to estimate the volume and trend of “Intra-Southeast Asian trade” using statistical tools published in Southeast Asian regions in the nineteenth century. In accordance with the properties of trade statistics, Intra-regional trade is defined as local trade between Southeast Asian regions. As a result of calculations, it finds out that Intra-regional trade grew from the 1820s to 1913, with focus on free-port Singapore.

The second part seeks to examine the functions of regional currency system and market structure for the growth of intra-regional trade. Silver was main currency for intra-regional trade, and the expansion of silver currency has occurred in the middle of the century based on the combination of international banking operations and local currency system in Singapore. In addition, using commodity price data, the market of Singapore functioned not only to reflect the international price movements but also to fix the price of local consumer products in intra-regional trade.

The third part approaches to the merchants’ activities conducting intra-regional trade. In Singapore, while European merchants were primarily engaged in long-distance trade, local Asian traders commanded intra-regional trade based on their knowledge about local commerce, and Chinese merchants of Singapore capable of speaking various tongues intermediated between their transactions. Those merchants’ networks functioned to expand intra-regional trade of local consumer products, such as rice, together with international commodities, like British cotton manufactured goods.

The conclusion of the thesis summarizes previous chapters, and discusses that developmental path of Southeast Asian trade has not been interrupted by Western Impact; rather, it advanced to further phase in response to the external influence in the nineteenth century.

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