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Agricultural Labor Productivity in the Lower South, 1720-1800

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  • Peter C. Mancall
  • Joshua L. Rosenbloom
  • Thomas Weiss

Abstract

Agriculture dominated the economy of eighteenth-century British America, and the pace of agricultural productivity advance was the primary determinant of the rate of economic growth. In this paper we offer new measures of agricultural productivity advance in the Lower South between 1720 and 1800. Past efforts and quantification have focused exclusively on the region's export performance. In addition to extending and refining measures of regional exports, we develop two new series based on the value of slave labor and on measurements of total agricultural production in the region. Despite differences in their short-term behavior, all of the indices show that long-run productivity improvements were modest at best, and may have been negative. Surprisingly, taking account of production for domestic consumption yields the most favorable long-term performance.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8375.

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Date of creation: Jul 2001
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Publication status: published as Mancall, Peter, Josh Rosenbloom and Thomas Weiss. "Agricultural Labor Productivity in the Lower South, 1720-1800." Explorations in Economic History (Oct 2002): 390-424.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8375

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  1. R. C. Nash, 1992. "South Carolina and the Atlantic economy in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 45(4), pages 677-702, November.
  2. David, Paul A., 1967. "The Growth of Real Product in the United States Before 1840: New Evidence, Controlled Conjectures," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 27(02), pages 151-197, June.
  3. Walsh, Lorena S., 1989. "Plantation Management in the Chesapeake, 1620–1820," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(02), pages 393-406, June.
  4. Thomas Weiss, 1989. "Economic Growth Before 1860: Revised Conjectures," NBER Historical Working Papers 0007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Egnal, Marc, 1998. "New World Economies: The Growth of the Thirteen Colonies and Early Canada," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195114829.
  6. Shepherd, James F. & Williamson, Samuel H., 1972. "The Coastal Trade of the British North American Colonies, 1768–1772," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(04), pages 783-810, December.
  7. Thomas J. Weiss, 1992. "U. S. Labor Force Estimates and Economic Growth, 1800-1860," NBER Chapters, in: American Economic Growth and Standards of Living before the Civil War, pages 19-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Peter C. Mancall & Joshua L. Rosenbloom & Thomas Weiss, 2000. "Slave Prices in the Lower South, 1722-1815," NBER Historical Working Papers 0120, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Robert C. Allen, 1999. "Tracking the agricultural revolution in England," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 52(2), pages 209-235, 05.
  10. Carr, Lois Green & Menard, Russell R., 1989. "Land, Labor, and Economies of Scale in Early Maryland: Some Limits to Growth in the Chesapeake System of Husbandry," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(02), pages 407-418, June.
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