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The Resurgence Of Intra-Asian Trade, 1800–1850

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Chapter Summary

This chapter considers a set of trade statistics, mostly taken from British sources, to argue that there was a growth of intra-Asian trade during the first half of the nineteenth century, and that the size of this trade was probably comparable to Asia's long-distance trade with the West. It suggests that there was a broad regime shift from mercantilism to forced free trade in South and Southeast Asia, which allowed the entry of not only Western private traders but Asian merchants to seize trade opportunities. The chapter defines intra-Asian trade as trade between six major Asian ports or regions and their trade with other Asian ports. The increase of British cloth imports was compensated for by both the rapid increase of opium trade and re-exports of Western goods within Asia, so that the rate of growth of intra-Asian trade remained comparable to that of long-distance trade.

Keywords: Asian merchants; Asian ports; intra-Asian trade; opium trade; Southeast Asia; trade statistics



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