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Population, Economy and Environment in Island Southeast Asia: An Historical View with Special Reference to Northern Sulawesi

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This article attempts to provide a long historical perspective on the relationship between population, environment, and the use of economic resources (particularly agricultural land) in island Southeast Asia. Historically speaking, it is argued, both the size and the distribution of Southeast Asia’s human population have been determined mainly by economic factors: population geography has reflected economic geography, and population growth has followed economic growth. Partly because population densities were adjusted, roughly speaking, to local economic conditions, agricultural practices were typically sustainable in the sense that average yields did not decline over time. Episodes of population growth, stimulated by commerce, mostly took place in relatively favourable agricultural environments, and were accompanied by capital and labour investments that made possible higher sustainable yields per hectare of farmland. These arguments are supported with reference to historical sources from Indonesia (particularly northern Sulawesi) and the Philippines.

Keywords: Indonesia; Sulawesi; economic history; environmental history; historical demography; historical geography

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2002-07-01

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