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The Impact of Climate on Southeast Asia, circa 950–1820: New Findings



The recent discovery of continuous tree-ring series starting as early as 1030 CE has for the first time made possible the reconstruction of historical climates for much of mainland Southeast Asia. Perhaps the most dramatic finding is that wide cyclic fluctuations in the reach and volume of monsoon rains contributed substantially to both the genesis and the collapse of the charter civilizations of Angkor, Pagan, and Dai Viet. From circa 1450–1820 climate continued to influence political and economic development, but its impact appears to have diminished both because the amplitude of hydrological fluctuations decreased markedly, and because new sources of power rendered early modern Southeast Asian states more resilient. A pioneering collaborative effort by a historian and a paleoclimatologist, this paper promises three benefits: It can help to solve a variety of local historiographic puzzles, it can facilitate construction of a synchronized historical narrative for mainland Southeast Asia as a whole, and it can aid comparisons between mainland Southeast Asia and other sectors of Eurasia.



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1 Reid, Anthony, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450–1680. Volume 2. Expansion and Crisis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), Chapter 5, especially pp. 291–298. Reid adumbrated these ideas in ‘The Seventeenth-Century Crisis in Southeast Asia’, Modern Asian Studies 24 (1990): 639–659, especially pp. 654–656.

2 Using Dutch East India Company records to test Reid's thesis for the islands, Peter Boomgaard agreed that the seventeenth century saw serious climatically-related disruptions, but questioned whether they were much worse than earlier or later periods. Boomgaard, ‘Crisis Mortality in Seventeenth-Century Indonesia’, in Liu, Ts'ui-jung et al. ., eds, Asian Population History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 191220, especially p. 195.

3 Lieberman, Victor, Strange Parallels: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c. 800–1830. Volume 1. Integration on the Mainland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) [hereafter SP I], pp. 49, 78, 101–112, 121, 142–143, 156–157, 174, 176, 224–226, 239–240, 253, 265, 276, 295, 306, 363–364, 370–371, 385, 396, 420, 438–439, 459; and Volume 2. Mainland Mirrors: Europe, Japan, China, South Asia, and the Islands (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009) [hereafter SP II], pp. 33, 79–84, 146, 162, 240–243, 276, 330, 417–418, 792.

4 See Reid, Age of Commerce, pp. 291–296; tabulation of Berlage's, H. P. findings in Lamb, H. H., Climate: Present, Past and Future. Volume 2. (London: Methuen, 1977), pp. 603606; and discussion of Berlage's data in J. O. Murphy and P. H. Whetton, ‘A Re-Analysis of a Tree-Ring Chronology from Java’, Dendrochronology. Proceedings, B92 (1989): 241–257; Palmer, J. G. and Murphy, J. O., ‘An Extended Tree Ring Chronology (Teak) from Java’, Proceedings. Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen 96 (1993): 2741.

5 See Buckley, Brendan et al. ., ‘Dendrochronological Investigations in Thailand’, IAWA Journal 16 (1995): 393409; Buckley, Brendan et al. ., ‘Decadal Scale Droughts over Northwestern Thailand Over the Past 448 Years’, Climate Dynamics 29 (2007): 6371; Sano, Masaki, Buckley, Brendan, and Sweda, Tatsuo, ‘Tree-Ring Based Hydroclimate Reconstruction over Northern Vietnam from Fokienia Hodginsii: Eighteenth-Century Mega-drought and Tropical Pacific Influence’, Climate Dynamics 33 (2009): 331340; Buckley, Brendan et al. ., ‘Climate as a Contributing Factor in the Demise of Angkor, Cambodia’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [henceforth PNAS] 107 (2010): 67486752.

6 Irrigation generally depended either on streams or tanks, both sensitive over the medium and long term to changes in rainfall. See discussion and sources from SP I in n. 3supra, plus Amien, I. et al. ., ‘Effects of Interannual Climate Variability and Climate Change on Rice Yield in Java, Indonesia’, Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 2 (1996): 2939.

7 Compare sources in n. 5supra with Cook, Edward et al. ., ‘Asian Monsoon Failure and Megadrought During the Last Millennium’, Science 328 (2010): 486–89; D'Arrigo, Rosanne et al. ., ‘On the Variability of ENSO Over the Past Six Centuries’, Geophysical Research Letters [hereafter GRL] 32 (2005): L 03711; D'Arrigo, Rosanne, Wilson, Rob, and Li, Jinbao, ‘Increased Eurasian-Tropical Temperature Amplitude Difference in Recent Centuries: Implications for the Asian Monsoon’, GRL 33 (2006): L 122706; Mann, Michael et al. ., ‘Volcanic and Solar Forcing of the Tropical Pacific Over the Past 1000 Years’, Journal of Climate 18 (2005): 447454; Meehl, Gerald and Hu, Aixue, ‘Megadroughts in the Indian Monson Region and Southwest North America and a Mechanism for the Associated Multidecadal Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies’, Journal of Climate 19 (2006): 16051623.

8 On the definition of ‘charter states’ and the impact of climate on charter state fortunes, see n. 3supra; Victor Lieberman, ‘Charter State Collapse in Southeast Asia c. 1250–1400, as a Problem in Regional and World History’, The American Historical Review 116 (2011): 937–963; Buckley, ‘Climate as a Contributing Factor;’ and discussion infra.

9 On climatic correlations between Southeast Asia and other sectors of Eurasia, see Lieberman, ‘Charter State Collapse;’ SP II, Chapterss. 1–6; David Zhang et al., ‘The Causality Analysis of Climate Change and Large-Scale Human Crisis’, PNAS Early Edition, available online at URL:, type in the ‘doi’ box: 10,1073/pnas.1104268108 [accessed 1 February 2012]; Marks, Robert, Tigers, Rice, Silk, and Silt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998); Zhang, Pingzhong et al. ., ‘A Test of Climate, Sun, and Culture Relationships from an 1810-Year Chinese Cave Record’, Science 322 (2008): 940942; De'er, Zhang et al. ., ‘On Linking Climate to Chinese Dynastic Change’, Chinese Science Bulletin 55 (2010): 7783; Wang, Xunming et al. ., ‘Climate, Desertification, and the Rise and Collapse of China's Historical Dynasties’, Human Ecology 38 (2010): 157172; Brook, Timothy, The Troubled Empire (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2010); Zhang, David et al. ., ‘Global Climate Change, War, and Population Decline in Recent Human History’, PNAS 104 (2007): 1921419219; Parker, Geoffrey, ‘Crisis and Catastrophe: The Global Crisis of the Seventeenth Century Reconsidered’, The American Historical Review 113 (2008): 10531079; Atwell, William, ‘Time, Money, and the Weather’, Journal of Asian Studies [henceforth JAS] 61 (2002): 83114; idem, ‘Volcanism and Short–Term Climatic Change in East Asian and World History, c. 1200–1699’, Journal of World History 12 (2001): 29–98.

10 Fisher, Charles A., South–East Asia: A Social, Economic and Political Geography (London: Methuen, 1964), 2842; D'Arrigo, Wilson, and Li, ‘Increased Eurasian–Tropical Temperature Amplitude’; Boomgaard, Peter, Southeast Asia: An Environmental History (Santa Barbara: ABC–Clio, 2007), ch. 4; Allen, Richard and Soden, Brian, ‘Atmospheric Warming and the Amplification of Precipitation Extremes’, Science Express, 7 Aug., 2009, 17; and especially Sinha, Ashish et al. ., ‘A Global Context for Megadroughts in Monsoon Asia During the Past Millennium’, Quarternary Science Reviews 30 (2010): 116.

11 On solar radiation, Douglas Hoyt and Kenneth Schatten, The Role of the Sun in Climate Change (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), chs. 10, 11; Lockwood, Mike, ‘Solar Change and Climate’, Proceedings of the Royal Society. A. 466 (2010): 303329.

12 Anchukaitis, K. J. et al. ., ‘Influence of Volcanic Eruptions on the Climate of the Asian Monsoon Region’, GRL 37 (2010), L22703. However, this enhancing effect is not observed with extra–tropical eruptions. See Atwell, ‘Volcanism and Short–Term Climatic Change’; Mann, ‘Volcanic and Solar Forcing’; Bradley, R. S. and Jones, P. D., ‘Records of Explosive Volcanic Eruptions Over the Last 500 Years’, in Bradley and Jones, Climate Since A.D. 1500 (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 606622.

13 Some scientists argue that increased solar radiation and/or reduced volcanism generate or prolong La Niña phases, but others believe that the ENSO arises from dynamics internal to the oceanic system itself. See discussion in Man, Michael et al. , ‘Global Signatures and Dynamical Origins of the Little Ice Age and Medieval Climate Anomaly’, Science 326 (2009): 12561260; Trouet, Valerie et al. ., ‘Persistent Positive North Atlantic Oscillation Mode Dominated the Medieval Climate Anomaly’, Science 324 (2009): 7880; Buckley, ‘Climate as a Contributing Factor’, 6751; Cobb, Kim et al. ., ‘El Niño/Southern Oscillation and Tropical Pacific Climate During the Last Millennium’, Nature 424 (2003): 271276.

14 See, e.g., Mann, ‘Global Signatures.’ On the Medieval Climate Anomaly as a global and Asian phenomenon, see n. 12supra; Meehl and Hu’, Megadroughts’; Cook, ‘Asian Monsoon Failure’; Soon, Willie, Baliunas, Sallie et al. ., ‘Reconstructing Climatic and Environmental Changes of the Past 1000 Years: A Reappraisal’, Energy and Environment 14 (2003): 233296; Zhang, ‘Global Climate Change’; Osborne, Timothy and Briffa, Keith, ‘The Spatial Extent of 20th–Century Warmth in the Context of the Past 1200 Years’, Science 311 (2006): 841844; Zhang, ‘Test of Climate.’

15 Particularly strong El Niño events in South Asia and/or mainland Southeast Asia are recorded in 1594–1597, 1629–1641, 1685–1688, 1789–1796, and 1756–1768. See Grove, Richard and Chappell, John, eds, El Niño: History and Crisis (Cambridge: White Horse Press, 2000), Chapter 1; Cook, ‘Asian Monsoon Failure’; Mann, ‘Volcanic and Solar Forcing’; W. H. Quinn and V. T. Neal, ‘The Historical Record of El Niño Events’, in Bradley and Jones, Climate Since A.D. 1500, pp. 623–648; Luc Ortlieb, ‘The Documented Historical Record of El Niño Events in Peru’, in Diaz, Henry and Markgraf, Vera, eds, El Niño and the Southern Oscillation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 207295; Vera Markgraf and Henry Diaz, ‘The Past ENSO Record: A Synthesis’, in ibid., pp. 465–488.

16 See, e.g., Sano, ‘Tree–Ring Based Hydroclimate Reconstruction’, and Figures 1–4 in this paper.

17 On the PDSI, see Buckley, ‘Climate as a Contributing Factor’, 6748, and on tree–ring widths, Buckley, ‘Decadal Scale Droughts.’. The southern Vietnamese site is Bidoup Nui Ba National Park, the northern Vietnamese site is Mu Cang Chai, while the Thai site is Mae Hong Son. See n. 5supra.

18 Sinha, ‘A Global Context for Megadroughts’; Ashish Sinha et al., ‘A 900–Year (600 to 1500 A.D.) Record of the Indian Summer Monsoon Precipitation from the Core Monsoon Zone of India’, GRL 34 (2007): L 16707. See also, corroborating records from Wanxiang Cave in North China in Zhang, ‘Test of Climate’.

19 Source: Buckley, ‘Climate as a Contributing Factor’, Fig. S3.

20 Source: Sano, ‘Tree–Ring–Based Hydroclimate Reconstruction, Fig. 5b.

21 Source: Buckley, ‘Decadal Scale Droughts, Fig. 2A.

22 Source: Sinha, ‘A Global Context for Megadroughts, Fig. 2 (top sector).

23 Source: SPI, 110, Fig. 2.3, in turn based on Roger Y. Anderson, ‘Long–Term Changes in the Frequency of Occurrence of El Niño Events’, in Diaz, Henry and Markgraf, Vera, eds, El Niño: Historical and Paleoclimatic Aspects of the Southern Oscillation (Cambridge, 1992), Fig. 9.1; Simon Haberle, ‘Vegetation Response to Climatic Variability’, in Grove and Chappell, El Niño, Fig. 1.

24 Vickery, Michael, Society, Economics, and Politics in Pre–Angkor Cambodia (Tokyo: Centre for East Asian Cultural Studies, 1998); Mabbett, Ian and Chandler, David, The Khmers (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), Chapters 6–8; Coe, Michael, Angkor and the Khmer Civilization (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2003), Chapters 5–6; Chandler, David, A History of Cambodia (2nd ed., Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1992), Chapters 2–3; Higham, Charles, The Civilization of Angkor (London: Widenfeld and Nicolson, 2001); Ortloff, Charles, Water Engineering in the Ancient World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 358376; Penny, Dan et al. ., ‘Vegetation and Land–Use at Angkor, Cambodia’, Antiquity 80 (2006): 599614.

25 On Upper Burma to circa 1100, Bob Hudson, ‘The Origins of Bagan [sic]’ (University of Sydney Ph.D. dissertation, 2004); Aung–Thwin, Michael, Pagan: The Origins of Modern Burma (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985), Chapter 1; Luce, Gordon, Old Burma – Early Pagan, 3 vols. (Locust Valley, New York: J. J. Augustin Publishers, 1969–1970), I, Chapers 1–3; idem, Phases of Pre–Pagan Burma, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985); Stargardt, Janice, The Pyu of Ancient Burma (Cambridge: PACSEA, 1990).

26 Taylor, Keith, The Birth of Vietnam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983); idem, ‘The “Twelve Lords” in Tenth–Century Vietnam’, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies [hereafter JSEAS] 14 (1983): 46–62; Jennifer Holmgren, Chinese Colonisation of Northern Vietnam (Canberra: Australian National University, 1980); SP, I, 352–363

27 Mabbett and Chandler, Khmers, pp. 100, 165, 167, 169.

28 Higham, Charles, The Archaeology of Mainland Southeast Asia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 332; Mabbett and Chandler, Khmers, pp. 100–102, 149–150; Coe, Angkor, pp. 145–148.

29 This characterization appears at Greater Angkor Project, ‘Redefining Angkor: Structure and Environment in the Largest Low Density Urban Complex of the Pre–Industrial World’, Udaya 4 (2003): 107–125, citing a figure of 750,000 people within 1000–1500 square km around Angkor; and Evans, Damian et al. ., ‘A Comprehensive Archaeological Map of the World's Largest Preindustrial Settlement at Angkor, Cambodia’, PNAS 104 (4 September 2007): 1427714282. I have relied too on Roland Fletcher, personal communication, 13 January 2011.

30 Mabbett and Chandler, Khmers, Chapters 8–15, especially pp. 102–106, 171, 205, 262–263; Coe, Angkor, Chapters 5–7; Chandler, History, Chapters 3–4; Ortloff, Water Engineering; Roland Fletcher et al., ‘The Development of the Water Management System of Angkor: A Provisional Model’, Indo–Pacific Prehistory Association Bulletin 28 (2008): 57–66; Hubert de Mestier du Bourg, ‘Le premiere moitie du XI siecle au Cambodge’, Journal Asiatique 258 (1970): 281–314, especially p. 308.

31 Hudson, ‘Origins of Bagan’, p. 262 and Chapters 7, 8; Luce, Old Burma, I, 29–38; U Maung Maung Tin, Myit–tha taze–ywa kwin–zin–lei–la chet–hmat–zu (Mandalay: Sa–pei bi–man htok, 2000); Aung–Thwin, Pagan, pp. 101–102, 186–192; manuscript version of Bob Hudson, Nyein Lwin, and Win Maung, ‘The Origins of Bagan’, Asian Perspectives 40 (2001), Fig. 1.

32 Yumio Sakurai, ‘Vietnam After the Age of Commerce’ (ms), 1–3; SP, I, 362–65, 368, 420; Esta Ungar, ‘Sources for Historical Demography: Vietnam from the 15th Century’ (ms); Taylor, Keith, ‘Authority and Legitimacy in 11th–Century Vietnam’, in Marr, David and Milner, Anthony, eds, Southeast Asia in the 9th to 14th Centuries (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1986), 139140; Gourou, Pierre, Les Paysans du Delta Tonkinois (Paris: Les Editions d'Art et d'Histoire, 1936), 6570, 83–85, 113–121, 130–135.

33 Luce, G. H., ‘Old Kyaukse and the Coming of the Burmans’, Journal of the Burma Research Society [henceforth JBRS] 42 (1959): 75109; idem, Old Burma, I, Chapter 1; Aung–Thwin, Pagan, pp. 17–22.

34 O'Connor, Richard, ‘Agricultural Change and Ethnic Succession in Southeast Asian States’, JAS 54 (1995): 968996. Cf. Hudson, ‘Origins of Bagan’, 127, 151; and n. 25supra.

35 At the same time raids by the kingdom of Nan–zhao in Yunnan may have increased Pyu vulnerability.

36 Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, pp. 250–301; idem, ‘Twelve Lords’; John Whitmore, ‘‘Elephants Can Actually Swim’, in Marr and Milner, Southeast Asia 9th to 14th Centuries, 117–137; SP, I, 353, 360–361, 364.

37 For extended discussion and analysis, see SP, II, Chapters 1, 2, 5–6.

38 On multifaceted maritime influences, see Whitmore, John, ‘The Rise of the Coast’, JSEAS 37 (2006): 103122; Wade, Geoff, ‘An Early Age of Commerce in Southeast Asia, 900–1300 CE’, JSEAS 40 (2009): 221265, and the response to Wade by Lieberman, Victor, ‘Maritime Influences in Southeast Asia, c. 900–1300: Some Further Thoughts’, JSEAS 41 (2010): 351361.

39 According to Fenner, Frank, ‘Smallpox in Southeast Asia’, Crossroads 3 (1988): 3435, an interactive population of 100,000–200,000 is usually sufficient for smallpox to become endemic. From an early date, Burma's lowland core, Angkor, and Dai Viet all had populations well in excess of this threshold. See n. 29supra and SP I, 420, Figure 4.2. As late as the nineteenth century, smallpox still could take a serious toll in archipelagic Southeast Asia, but was far more virulent in isolated districts than in well–frequented and populous coastal areas. See Newson, Linda, ‘Old World Diseases in the Early Colonial Philippines and Spanish America’, in Doeppers, Daniel and Xenos, Peter, eds, Population and History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1998), pp. 1736; Andaya, Barbara Watson, To Live as Brothers (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993), p. 228; Boomgaard, ‘Crisis Mortality in Seventeenth–Century Indonesia’, especially 199–202; idem, Southeast Asia, 120; Fenner, Frank et al. ., Smallpox and Its Eradication (Geneva: World Health Organization, 1988), 209232; McNeill, William, Plagues and Peoples (Garden City, New York: Anchor Press, 1976), Chapters. 2–4.

40 Chinese and Indian Ocean luxuries encouraged agrarian expansion either because local foodstuffs could be exchanged for such imports, or because royal monopolies on exotic exports required military force, which presupposed abundant manpower, which favoured agrarian expansion.

41 On international bullion flows in the late charter era, see Kuroda, Akinobu, ‘The Eurasian Silver Century, 1276–1359’, Journal of Global History 4 (2009): 245269.

42 Wanxiang Cave is in Wudu County, Gansu Province. Zhang, ‘Test of Climate’. Note, however, that neither Dandak nor Wanxiang records show a decline in rainfall between circa 1200 and 1250 as large as that in South Vietnam in Figure 1.

43 See nn. 1314supra.

44 Source: SPI, 109, Fig. 2.2 (bottom sector), based on manuscript version of Hudson, Bob, Lwin, Nyein, and Maung, Win, ‘The Origins of Bagan [sic]’, Asian Perspectives 40, (2001), Fig. 1.

45 Aung–Thwin, Pagan, pp. 101–103, 186–192. On taik expansion, see too Luce, G. H., ‘Economic Life of the Early Burman’, JBRS 30 (1940): 286–88; idem, Old Burma, I, 29–38, 84–92.

46 Fisher, South–East Asia, p. 35; Nuttonson, M., Climatological Data of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia (Washington, D.C.: American Institute of Crop Ecology, 1963).

47 Hermann Kulke, ‘The Early and the Imperial Kingdom in Southeast Asian History’, in Marr and Milner, Southeast Asia 9th to 14th Centuries, p. 16. This compares with around 2000–2500 temples at Pagan at its height. On Angkor's agrarian/institutional system and hydraulic foundations, see nn. 24, 29, 30supra; SP I, pp. 224–228; Higham, Civilization, pp. 5, 33, 48–49, 154–155; Dumarcay, Jacques, ‘Khmer Hydraulics’, in Jessup, Helen Ibbitson and Zephir, Thierry, eds, Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1997), 93100; Pottier, Christophe, ‘Some Evidence of an Inter–relationship between Hydraulic Features and Rice Field Patterns at Angkor during Ancient Times’, Journal of Sophia Asian Studies (18 (2000): 99119; Fletcher, Roland, ‘Seeing Angkor: New Views of an Old City’, Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia 32–33 (2000–2001): 127. If our earlier speculation that excessive rain circa 1100–1150 impeded brick construction at Pagan has any merit, it is worth noting that ample supplies of laterite and sandstone freed Angkor from comparable constraints.

48 See n. 32supra.

49 Cf. n. 32supra and Marks, Tigers, Rice, Chapters 1–2, especially pp. 29–33, 70.

50 On smallpox, see n. 39supra; and on maritime trade, n. 38supra.

51 See SP II, chs. 2, 5, 6, and nn. 9, 38supra.

52 Lieberman, ‘Charter State Collapse’; Bennett, Paul, Conference Under the Tamarind Tree (New Haven: Yale Southeast Asia Studies, 1971), pp. 353; Aung–Thwin, Michael, Myth and History in the Historiography of Burma (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1998), Chapters 3–4; idem, The Mists of Ramanna (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005), reconstructing Mon origins; and SP, I, 119–39. On ethnicity under Pagan, see Luce, G. H., ‘Note on the Peoples of Burma in the 12th–13th Centuries A.D.’, JBRS 42 (1959): 75102. On classification of Tais and other ethno–linguistic groups, see Lebar, Frank et al. ., Ethnic Groups of Mainland Southeast Asia (New Haven: Human Relations Area Files Press, 1964); Michaud, Jean, Historical Dictionary of the Peoples of the Southeast Asian Massif (Lantham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2006).

53 Fletcher, ‘Seeing Angkor’, 18; Mabbett and Chandler, Khmers, Chapters 15, 16; Coe, Angkor, Chapter 8; Kasetsiri, Charnvit, The Rise of Ayudhya (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1976); Wyatt, David, ‘Relics, Oaths and Politics in Thirteenth–Century Siam’, JSEAS 32 (2001): 366; idem, Thailand: A Short History (2nd edn, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), Chapters 3, 4; O. W. Wolters, ‘The Khmer King at Basan (1371–73)’, Asia Major, n.s. 12 (1966): 78–87; SP, I, 236–247. Although Angkor was more or less permanently abandoned by the mid 1400s, the idea that a Tai attack in 1431 constituted Angkor's death knell is suspect.

54 On the fourteenth–century agrarian/social crisis, Sakurai, ‘Age of Commerce’; Wolters, O. W., Two Essays on Dai Viet in the Fourteenth Century (New Haven: Yale Center for International and Area Studies, 1988); idem, ‘On Telling A Story of Vietnam in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries’, JSEAS 26 (1995): 65–74; Whitmore, John, Vietnam, Ho Quy Ly, and the Ming (1371–1421) (New Haven: Yale Center for International and Area Studies, 1985), Chapters 1, 2; idem, ‘Colliding Peoples: Tai/Viet Interactions in the 14th and 15th Centuries’ (ms); SP, I, 367–72, 420, with population graph; and n. 32supra and n. 81infra.

55 Lieberman, Victor, ‘The Political Significance of Religious Wealth in Burmese History: Some Further Thoughts’, JAS 39 (1980): 753757; Bennett, Conference, 3–53; Tun, Than, ‘History of Burma A.D. 1300–1400’, JBRS 42 (1959): 119–33; Aung–Thwin, Pagan, especially Chapters 8, 9.

56 This is my reading of Mabbett, I. W., ‘Kingship in Angkor’, Journal of the Siam Society 66 (1978), 158, especially p. 9; Higham, Archaeology, p. 355; Mabbett and Chandler, Khmers, p. 172; Sahai, Sachchidanand, Les Institutions Politiques et l'Organisation Administrative du Cambodge Ancien (VIe–XIIIe Siecles) (Paris: Ecole Francaise d'Extreme–Orient, 1970), pp. 145148; Mazzeo, Donatella and Antonini, Chiara Silvi, Monuments of Civilization: Ancient Angkor (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1978), pp, 6481, 168–173.

57 Royal authority in Dai Viet decayed even though the Tran, alone among Southeast Asian ruling families, instituted royal primogeniture. See n. 54supra; Wolters, O. W., ‘What Else May Ngo Si Lien Mean?’ in Reid, Anthony, ed., Sojourners and Settlers (St Leonards, Australia: Allen and Unwin, 1996), pp. 107110. On the administrative structure of Southeast Asian charter states generally, see SP I, Chapters 2–4.

58 See Figure 6 on temple construction, and Aung–Thwin, Pagan, pp. 187–189, on gifts of land, labour, and silver. After three centuries of reclamation, it appears that still only about 6 per cent of Upper Burma was given to rice, and another 6 per cent to dry crops. Lieberman, ‘Political Significance’, pp. 754–755.

59 See, e.g., the critique by Hayao, Fukui, ‘Groslier's Hydraulic Society Theory of Angkor in the Eyes of an Agroecologist’, Southeast Asian Studies 36 (1999): 546554.

60 Groslier, Bernard, ‘Agriculture et religion dans l'empire Angkorien’, ‘Etudes Rurales 53–56 (1974): 95117, especially p. 105; idem, ‘La cite hydraulique’, Bulletin de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme–Orient 66 (1979): 161–202, especially pp. 191–195; Mabbett and Chandler, Khmers, 151–153, 214–215.

61 Less favourable rainfall also may have been a factor. Fletcher, ‘Seeing Angkor’, p. 22; Stone, Richard, ‘The End of Angkor’, Science 311 (2006): 13641368; Fletcher and Daniel Penny, personal communications, 13–14 January 2011. On the operation and degeneration of Angkor's hydraulic system, see too Ortloff, Water Engineering, 358–376, 399; Dumarcay, ‘Khmer Hydraulics’; Penny, ‘Vegetation and Land–Use’; Fletcher, ‘Development of Water Management’; Pottier, ‘Evidence of an Inter–relationship’; Greater Angkor Project, ‘Redefining Angkor’; Evans, ‘Comprehensive Archaeological Map’; Leigh Dayton, ‘The Lost City’, New Scientist, 13 January 2001: 43–46; Buckley, ‘Climate As a Contributing Factor’; Richard Stone, ‘Divining Angkor’, National Geographic 216 (2009): 26–55, especially 49–51.

62 This suggestion appears at Fletcher, ‘Seeing Angkor’, pp. 22–24.

63 Cf. Evans, ‘Comprehensive Archaeological Map’, p. 14282.

64 In 1389 an army of vagabonds occupied the capital for three days. Notes 32, 54 supra; SP, I, 367–371, 420.

65 See nn. 61supra and 70infra.

66 Buckley, ‘Climate as a Contributing Factor’, 6748; Sinha, ‘A Global Context for Megadroughts’, 13–14.

67 See Figure 4; Zhang, ‘Test of Climate’; Sao Saimong Mangrai, The Padaeng Chronicle and the Jengtung State Chronicle Translated (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, 1981), 141–142, 237–238, referring to severe droughts in 1392–1393 and 1410–1411; Whitmore, Ho Quy Ly, 33–34, 37, referring to the same drought in 1392–1393; Buckley, ‘Climate as a Contributing Factor’, nn. 1618, citing a Chiang Mai chronicle and noting that these droughts may have extended to Sri Lanka, India, and central China.

68 Previous note, plus Buckley, ‘Climate As a Contributing Factor’, including the appendix ‘Supporting Information’; David Godley, ‘Flood Regimes in Northern Thailand’ (Monash University, M.A. Thesis, 1997), 140–142; Inscriptions of Pagan, Pinya and Ava (Rangoon: Superintendent, Government Printing, Burma, 1892), p. 325.

69 This is not to deny that maritime trade probably constituted a more significant source of Lower Burma strength than did agriculture. See discussion infra, and U Kala, Maha–ya–zawin–gyi, vol. 1, Saya Pwa, ed. (Rangoon: Han–tha–wadi Pi–ta–kat Press, 1960), pp. 283–287, 375–440; SP, I, 129–131.

70 Note 61 supra, plus Stone, Richard, ‘Tree Rings Tell of Angkor's Dying Days’, Science 323 (2009): 999; Diamond, Jared, ‘Maya, Khmer and Inca’, Nature 461 (24 September 2009), 479480; Cook, ‘Asian Monsoon Failure’; (Anonymous) ‘Did Climate Influence Angkor's Demise?’, Science Daily, 30 March 2010.

71 On Tai history to circa 1400, Wyatt, Thailand, Chapters 1–4; idem, ‘Relics, Oaths’; Stuart–Fox, Martin, The Lao Kingdom of Lan Xang: Rise and Decline (Bangkok: White Lotus, 1998), Chapters 1–2; Coedes, G., The Indianized States of Southeast Asia, Vella, Walter F., ed. (Honolulu: East–West Center, 1968), Chapter 12; Hoshino, Tatsuo, Pour une Histoire Medievale du Moyen Mekong (Bangkok: Editions Duang Kamol, 1986); Vallibhotama, Srisak et al. ., ‘Siam Before the 14th Century’, in Snidvongs, Varunyupha, ed., Essays in Thai History (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1991); Nidhi Eiosrivongs et al., ‘Early Ayudhya’, in Snidvongs, Essays; Kasetsiri, Rise of Ayudhya.

72 We follow O'Connor, ‘Agricultural Change’, plus Yoneo Ishii, ed., Thailand: A Rice–Growing Society (Honolulu, 1978); Watabe, Tadayo, ‘The Glutinous Rice Zone in Thailand’, in Ichimura, Shinichi, ed., Southeast Asia: Nature, Society, and Development (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1977), 96113; Takaya, Yoshikazu, ‘An Ecological Interpretation of Thai History’, JSEAS 6 (1975): 190195.

73 Previous note plus Wyatt, Thailand, 30–60; Kasetsiri, Rise of Ayudhya, Chapter 3; Gosling, Betty, A Chronology of Religious Architecture at Sukhothai (Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies, 1996), p. 4.

74 See nn. 7173supra.

75 Institutional, technological, and political factors also joined climate to boost international trade. See n. 38supra; Abu–Lughod, Janet, Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250–1350 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991); Christie, Jan Wisseman, ‘The Medieval Tamil–Language Inscriptions in Southeast Asia and China’, JSEAS 29 (1998): 239268; Billy K. L. So, Prosperity, Region, and Institutions in Maritime China (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Asia Center, 2000), Part 1; and SP, II, Chapters 2, 5–7.

76 For evidence of a post–1280 downturn, see Wade, ‘Early Age of Commerce’, 228, 238–239; Reid, Age of Commerce, 10–53; idem, ‘Flows and Seepages in the Long–Term Chinese Interaction with Southeast Asia’, in Reid, Sojourners and Settlers, pp. 15–37; Bulbeck, David et al. ., comps, Southeast Asian Exports Since the 14th Century (Leiden: KITLV Press, 1998); Brown, Roxanna, ‘A Ming Gap?’ in Wade, Geoff and Laichen, Sun, eds, Southeast Asia in the Fifteenth Century: The China Factor (Singapore: NUS Press, 2010), 359383.

77 Moreover, Sino–Southeast Asian ceramics filled much of the gap caused by declining Ming ceramic exports. See Mabbett and Chandler, Khmers, 215–216; Whitmore, ‘Rise of the Coast’; Hall, Kenneth, ‘Local and International Trade and Traders in the Straits of Melaka Region: 600–1500’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 47 (2004): 213260; and Ptak, Roderich, ‘From Quanzhou to the Sulu Zone and Beyond’, JSEAS 29 (1998): 269294.

78 Lieberman, Victor, Burmese Administrative Cycles: Anarchy and Conquest, c. 1580–1760 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), pp. 1718.

79 Michael Vickery, ‘Cambodia After Angkor: The Chronicular Evidence for the 14th to 16th Centuries’ (Yale University Ph.D. Dissertation, 1978), pp. 491–522; idem, ‘The 2/K.125 Fragment, A Lost Chronicle of Ayutthaya’, JSS 65 (1977): 78–80; Mabbett and Chandler, Khmers, 179–182, 215–216; Charnvit, Rise of Ayudhya, Chapters 4–7; Wyatt, Thailand, Chapters 3–4.

80 This is not to deny that Dai Viet also drew some profit from Song and Yuan trade. Shiro, Momoki, ‘Dai Viet and the South China Sea Trade Boom from the 10th to the 15th Century’, Crossroads 12 (1998); Whitmore, John, ‘Van Don, the ‘Mac Gap,’ and the End of the Jiaozhi Ocean System’, in Cooke, Nola et al. ., eds, The Gulf of Tongking Through History (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), pp. 101116; idem, ‘Rise of the Coast’.

81 See extended discussion in SP, II, Chapters 2, 5, 6; Lieberman, ‘Charter State Collapse’. On the other hand, there is little current evidence that the Black Death seriously impacted Southeast Asia or India; it also may have bypassed China. Lieberman, ‘Charter State Collapse’, nn. 73, 74; Boomgaard, Southeast Asia, p. 120.

82 See n. 3supra.

83 On political shifts circa 1450–1600, pre–1600 ecology, and Toungoo's rise, see Lieberman, Burmese Administrative Cycles, 15–38; SP, I, 123–154.

84 Chiang Mai's southern neighbour Sukhothai was similarly disadvantaged vis–a–vis Ayudhya. On ecology and politics in the central mainland circa 1450–1550, see Kasetsiri, Rise of Ayudhya, Chapters 4–7, especialy pp. 18, 78; Wyatt, Thailand, Chapter 4; SP, I, 242–274; Wyatt, David and Wichienkeeo, Aroonrut, The Chiang Mai Chronicle (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 1995), Chapters 4–5.

85 SP, I, 263–274.

86 Phrase from Nguyen Tu Chi, ‘The Traditional Vietnamese Village in Bac Bo’, Vietnamese Studies 61 (n.d.): 40–41; and population figures from Tana, Li, Nguyen Cochinchina (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 1998), pp. 159172, especially Table 4. On Dai Viet's remarkable vitality circa 1450–1600, ibid., pp. 20–24, essays by Nguyen The Anh and Po Dharma in Lafont, P. B., ed., Les Frontieres du Vietnam (Paris: Editions l'Harmattan, 1989); Sakurai, ‘Age of Commerce’; John Whitmore, ‘The Development of Le Government in Fifteenth–Century Vietnam’ (Cornell University Ph.D. Dissertation, 1968), Chapter 6; Wade and Sun, Southeast Asia in the Fifteenth Century, Part 2; SP, I, 380–399, 420.

87 Rainfall data for 1470–1580 in Figure 2 accord with the ‘wetness index’ for Guangzhou. See SP, I, 385, nn. 120123, and Marks, Tigers, Rice, 200, Figure 6.3.

88 Similar problems becloud Lao historiography. There, too, in the late 1400s and 1500s, the demographic centre of gravity moved south from the narrow valleys of northern Laos into more fertile, well watered regions of the central Mekong, focused on Vientiane, which receives about a third more rainfall than Luang Prabang. But why, judging from Figure 2, should these shifts have accelerated at a time when rainfall in Laos, as in northern Vietnam, improved somewhat?

89 For a fuller discussion see SP, I, 377–393; Whitmore, ‘Development of Le Government’; Wade and Sun, Southeast Asia in the Fifteenth Century, Part 2; Laichen, Sun, ‘Military Technology Transfers from Ming China and the Emergence of Northern Mainland Southeast Asia (c. 1390–1527)’, JSEAS 34 (2003): 495517.

90 A more attractive downriver commercial location also helps to explain the rise of Vientiane over Luang Prabang. This helps to answer the problem posed in n. 88supra.

91 SP, I, 131–154, 242–274.

92 Li, Nguyen Cochinchina, pp. 162, 159–163, 172. Ensuing discussion follows also SP, I, 154–157, 263–277, 394–399.

93 Mangrai, Padaeng Chronicle, p, 247; U Kala, Maha–ya–zawin–gyi, vol. 3, U Hkin So., ed. (Rangoon: Han–tha–wadi Pi–ta–kat Press, 1961), 92–99; SP, I, 156–157.

94 On adverse climate in Europe, Russia, India, and China circa 1584–1610, see Atwell, ‘Volcanism’, 56–62 (with claim for 1601 summer); SP, II, 238–240; Grove and Chappell, El Niño, pp. 14–15; and especially Zhang, ‘Causality Analysis of Climate Change’.

95 On the other hand, improved climate in northern Vietnam may have helped to destabilize the heartland by creating new land shortages.

96 For an analysis of Pegu's advantages and a litany of its victories, see Lieberman, Burmese Administrative Cycles, Chapter 1; and SP, I, 123–154, 242–277.

97 Li, Nguyen Cochinchina, 18–36, 159–163; SP, I, 394–399.

98 See discussion at SP, I, 158–209, 302–335, 419–454.

99 Grove and Chappell, El Niño, pp. 15, 22; Reid, Age of Commerce, p. 293; idem, ‘Seventeenth–Century Crisis’, p. 655; Hall, D. G. E., ‘The Daghregister of Batavia and Dutch Trade with Burma in the Seventeenth Century’, JBRS 29 (1939): 140144; idem, Burma (London: Hutchinson's University Library, 1950), p. 66. Exiguous Dutch records from Burma for 1636–1640 leave us uncertain whether the drought continued past 1635, but Dutch records from Siam refer to ‘chronically bad crops throughout the 1630s’. Smith, George Vinal, The Dutch in Seventeenth–Century Thailand (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1977), p. 61.

100 See references to Hall in previous note.

101 Hall, D. G. E., Early English Intercourse with Burma 1587–1743 (2nd edn, London: Frank Cass and Co., 1968), p. 11.

102 Ibid., pp. 11–12, and Hall, Burma, 66, following Harvey, G. E., A History of Burma from the Earliest Times to 10 March 1824 (rpt., London: Frank Cass and Co., 1967), pp. 193, 248–249.

103 To be fair to Hall, he too indentified some of these other factors. See Lieberman, Victor, ‘The Transfer of the Burmese Capital from Pegu to Ava’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1980): 6483; idem, Burmese Administrative Cycles, 57–60.

104 Hall, ‘Daghregister of Batavia’, p. 141; Dijk, Wil O., Seventeenth–Century Burma and the Dutch East India Company 1634–1680 (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2006), pp. 8283.

105 Lieberman, Burmese Administrative Cycles, 65–113, 285–292; SP, I, 158–164.

106 SP, I, 277–282 and Chapters 2, 3 passim.

107 See n. 1supra.

108 See n. 4 (with Berlage data) supra plus SP, II, 841–844, 858–868.

109 Dhiravat na Pombejra, ‘A Political History of Siam under the Prasatthong Dynasty 1629–1688’ (University of London Ph.D. Dissertation 1984), pp. 225, 334; Smith, Dutch in Seventeenth–Century Thailand, p. 61.

110 Marks, Tigers, Rice, pp. 199–200.

111 See Lieberman's comments at SP, I, 174, 295, and 295 n. 254.

112 Lieberman, Burmese Administrative Cycles, pp. 152–181, especially 176–177.

113 SP, 288–302; Lieberman, Victor, ‘An Age of Commerce in Southeast Asia? Problems of Regional Coherence’, JAS 54 (1995): 796807. Cf. Reid, Age of Commerce, pp. 306–309.

114 SP, I, 399–420; Li, Nguyen Cochinchina, with population figures on pp. 159–160.

115 SP, I, 174, 294, 299, 402, 438–439; SP II, 459.

116 Grove and Chappell, El Niño, pp. 16, 19–20; U Kala, Maha–ya–zawin–gyi, III, 333, 337, 379; Lieberman, Burmese Administrative Cycles, pp. 176–177; Dhiravat na Pombejra, ‘Ayutthaya at the End of the Seventeenth Century’, in Anthony Reid, ed., Southeast Asia in the Early Modern Era (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), p. 257; idem, ‘Princes, Pretenders, and the Chinese Phrakhlang’, in Leonard Blusse and Femme Gaastra, eds, On the Eighteenth Century as a Category of Asian History (Aldershot, United Kingdom: Ashgate, 1998), p. 116; Stuart–Fox, Lao Kingdom, p. 95; Marks, Tigers, Rice, p. 200; SP, I, 295, 295 n. 254.

117 Grove and Chappell, El Niño, 17–22; Cook, ‘Asian Monsoon Failure’. See also Grove, Richard, ‘The Great El Niño of 1789–93 and Its Global Consequences’, The Medieval History Journal 10 (2007): 7598; Marks, Tigers, Rice, 200, Figure 6.3. These droughts also register in Figure 1, but (for reasons by no means clear) not in Figures 2 and 3.

118 Koenig, William, The Burmese Polity, 1752–1819 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, 1990), pp. 3336, 53, 59.

119 Cook, ‘Asian Monson Failure’, p. 487. See too Sinha, ‘A Global Context for Megadroughts’.

120 However, these droughts do not figure prominently in Guangzhou data. Marks, Tigers, Rice, p. 200, Figure 6.3.

121 Cook, ‘Asian Monson Failure’, p. 487; also Grove, ‘Great El Niño’.

122 SP, I, 299–302; Wyatt, Thailand, Chapter 5; Rabibhadana, Akin, The Organization of Thai Society in the Early Bangkok Period, 1782–1873 (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 1969), Chapter 2.

123 On Vietnamese history and famines 1771–1802, Dutton, George, The Tay Son Uprising (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006), especially Chapter 1, pp. 26–36, 43–56, 46, 79, 87, 99–100, 164, 212; Li, Nguyen Cochinchina, Chapter 7; SP, I, 419–427. On climate, see too Marks, Tigers, Rice, p. 200, Figure 6.3.

124 Thus, consistent with our Figures 1 and 3, the account, first published in 1771, by Turpin, F. H., History of the Kingdom of Siam and of the Revolutions That Have Caused the Overthrow of the Empire Up to A.D. 1770, Cartwright, B. O., tr. (Bangkok: American Presbyterian Mission Press, 1908), 111114, 126–168 passim offers evidence of drought and famine at the start of the eighteenth century far more severe than any deficiencies circa 1750–1770.

125 SP, I, 302–335; Wyatt, Thailand, Chapter 6; Hong Lysa, Thailand in the Nineteenth Century (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1984). In theory perhaps, it could be argued that the Strange Parallels Drought weakened all mainland actors, so that Siam grew stronger not in absolute terms, merely in relation to Burma and Vietnam. But in fact, by all fiscal, military, organizational, and cultural criteria, Siam in 1800 was far more cohesive and efficient than its Ayudhyan predecessor. A similar progression characterized Burma and Vietnam between 1750 and 1820, so that in effect the bar for all mainland actors was constantly being raised. SP, I, Chapters 2–4.

126 SP, I, 182–183; Lieberman, Burmese Administrative Cycles, Chapter 3.

127 SP, I, 164–209; Koenig, Burmese Polity, Chapter 1.

128 See n. 123supra; SP, I, 419–454; and Cooke, Nola and Tana, Li, eds, Water Frontier: Commerce and the Chinese in the Lower Mekong Region, 1750–1880 (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2004); Dutton, Tay Son Uprising.

129 SP, I, 422–423.

130 See discussion in SP, II, Chapters 2–6.


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