Regional Disintegration in South Asia: Evidence from the End of the British Empire on Maritime Networks

Discussion Papers


by Cesar Ducruet and Kenmei Tsubota

March 2018


In the early 20th century, the British Empire primarily governed South Asia, and these regions shared similar administrations, institutions and commercial practices. After the Second World War, decolonization in South Asia became evident through the partition of India and countries gaining independence. These subsequent events can be seen as regional disintegration, and they offer a potential scope for examining the impacts of such institutional changes on maritime transport networks. By examining a new database detailing vessel movement between South Asian ports and the rest of the world from 1890 to 2000, we explore how maritime transport networks evolved in South Asia. Specifically, we compare the trends of shipping routes among ports before and after 1947. Applying the methodology developed by Redding, Sturm, and Wolf (2011) and Xu and Itoh (2017), we show that regional disintegration clearly lowered vessel movements for the routes that became international after 1947. Additionally, we examine two points; relationship with UK, and the independence of Bangladesh. For most of the cases, we find significantly negative impacts on vessel movements directly affected by regional disintegration.

Keywords: Maritime Transport Networks, South Asia, Colonialism

JEL classification: F15, N75, F54

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