New study shows 19th-century Thai women had vibrant land rights, challenging orthodox views

A new study to be published in the Economic History Review shows that Thai women as far back as the 19th century were capable landowners and their right to their land was often protected by the courts when disputes occurred challenging contemporary wisdom that land rights structures favour men.

The study, conducted by Thanyaporn Chankrajang and Jessica Vechbanyongratana of Chulalongkorn University, found that in 82 per cent of Bangkok’s Orchards in the 1800s, at least one woman was listed as an owner or part-owner.

The study also shows that these plots, where women were listed as owners, cultivated more trees per hectare than those plots owned solely by men.

Women also were protected by the law and in cases where “commoner women” went to court (either as the plaintiff or defendant) they were able to win cases, even when pitted against “politically powerful men.”

The study also shows that Bangkok’s welfare ratio showed larger household surpluses than those found in Japan and comparable to Milan during the same time period.

The study throws into question long assumed notions that the Occident led the way when it came to land rights for women.

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