Parching the land? The Chettiars in Burma

Sean Turnell*, Alison Vicary

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


In the history of Burma's economy, few groups have been as vilified as the Chettiars. A community of Indian moneylenders, the Chettiars were crucial agents in transforming Burma into the rice bowl of Asia. Following the global depression of the 1930s, Burmese agriculture became severely distressed and wide-scale loan default saw the transfer of much of Burma's cultivatable land to the Chettiars, who were demonised and made scapegoats for the vices of colonialism. The paper draws on the 'information-theoretic revolution' in economics to reappraise the role of the Chettiars in Burma. We conclude the Chettiars merit history's better judgement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalAustralian Economic History Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008


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