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Before and After the Wheel: Precolonial and Colonial States and Transportation in West Africa and Mainland Southeast Asia

Charney, Michael W. (2015) Before and After the Wheel: Precolonial and Colonial States and Transportation in West Africa and Mainland Southeast Asia. In: 8th EUROSEAS Conference, 11-14 August 2015, Vienna, Austria. (Submitted)

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Abstract

Although scholarship on Southeast Asia has generally ignored the role of precolonial transportation in religious, political, and even economic life (in contrast to rather more on the colonial period), historical research on precolonial and colonial West Africa has demonstrated the relationship between efficient transportation, viewed in this scholarship as the transition from predominantly head porterage to rail and motored road transport in the colonial period and after, and political centralisation, ushering in the rise of the modern state. While colonial and postcolonial states in mainland Southeast Asia experienced arguably greater political centralisation as a result of motored road transport and the railways whether the gap here was as great as in West Africa is doubtful. Environmental factors, both presenting constraints and political opportunities helped shape early modern mainland states in particular ways that made them peculiarly reliant on the control of access to and movement on river systems. This paper compares the precolonial and colonial transition in state formation in these two areas and the relationship of this formation to changing transportation technologies and geographies of movement, using what are today Ghana (the colonial Gold Coast) and Myanmar (Burma) as case studies.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Items (Paper)
Keywords: Africa, Ghana, Burma, Myanmar, Southeast Asia, roads, wheels, transportation, movement, mobility
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of History
Depositing User: Michael Charney
Date Deposited: 01 Sep 2015 14:21
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/20623

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