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    1. Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University
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    • Acknowledgements: An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Asia-Pacific Economic and Business History Conference (APEBH), Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, 17–19 February 2010. I acknowledge with gratitude financial support from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), April 2006–March 2009, under the JSPS-National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) Core University Program for the project ‘Labor-Intensive Industrialization in Southeast Asia’. Under Program Project 9: The Asian International Economic Order: Past, Present and Future. I would like to thank two anonymous referees for their helpful and constructive suggestions. I am grateful to Emeritus Professor Malcolm Falkus, University of New England, Australia, to the late Professor Karen Jansen, Institute of Social Studies, the Netherlands, and to Professor Sugihara Kaoru, Kyoto University Center for Southeast Asian Studies for their helpful comments and criticisms. Sole responsibility for the views expressed here, of course, rests with the author.


Thailand's economy before 1940 was marked by remarkably low long-term real economic growth, unusually high levels of the population living in rural areas, and limited industrialisation and urbanisation. This paper examines reasons for the lack of diversification, looking in particular at industrial development. We emphasise Thailand's role in the world economy, sources of labour supply, and the concentration of industry in the capital Bangkok. The impact of the world depression of the 1930s on the Thai economy was only moderate, which obviated the need for state policies that might have prompted significant economic change.