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The Burden of Owning Land: Habitat in Pre-Modern and Early-Modern Thailand

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Abstract From time immemorial until the decree of 7 April 1861, all land belonged to the Thai king. This paper explores what this meant in practice, over time. In pre-modern times, land ideally could be inherited, but this could be overruled by the king. Taking and exploiting a piece of land meant that the owner would be registered and taxed. In the Chaophraya Delta, where waterways were the dominant means of water transport, two separate types of housing developed: the house-boat and houses on rafts. The latter form of high-density living on the water was only abandoned in the second half of the nineteenth century. Finally, the question of occupying land is looked at from the perspective of the commoner.


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