Gateway Cities and Urbanisation in Southeast Asia Before World War II
Between the 1870s and World War II, falls in world shipping costs and Western industrialisation gave rise to export-led Southeast Asian growth and specialization in a narrow range of primary commodity exports. A linked development was the emergence of a few dominant Southeast Asian urban centres, typically primate and always ports. Drawing on historical census data, this paper uses rank-size distributions and transition matrices to investigate the influence of commodity specialisation and exports on urban systems development in the region. It is argued that different commodities produced different spread effects, resulting in variation in degrees of urban concentration in the region. However, geography, path dependence and infrastructrue also shaped urban systems development. The main cities that emerged during this period became the 'gateways' that connected frontier Southeast Asia to the Global economy,
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