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Happy in the service of the Company: the purchasing power of VOC salaries at the Cape in the 18th century

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Author Info

  • Sophia du Plessis

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

  • Stan du Plessis

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

Abstract

This paper contributes to the debate on the level and trajectory of welfare at the Cape of Good Hope during the 18th century. Recent scholarship (for example, Allen 2005) has calculated and compared the levels and evolution of real wages in various European and Asian economies since the early modern period. To this lit-erature we add evidence for unskilled and skilled workers of the Dutch East India Company at the Cape of Good Hope during the 18th century, following De Zwart (2009; 2011), who recently presented evidence for unskilled workers in the Cape for the latter half of the 17th century and the 18th century. We calculate job-specific real wages in a three-step argument; from the narrowest international comparison of wage rates in terms of silver content to one based on a basket of widely consumed goods. The paper’s contributions lie in the breadth of the com-parisons, the inclusion of skilled workers in the comparison and the adaptation of the consumption basket to local conditions and relative prices at the Cape. The results support the hypothesis that at the start of the 18th century, the Cape Col-ony was relatively poor on an international comparison, but as the century un-folded, gained considerably on even the richest contemporary societies.

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File URL: http://www.ekon.sun.ac.za/wpapers/2012/wp012012/wp-01-2012.pdf
File Function: First version, 2012
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 01/2012.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers153

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Related research

Keywords: Real wages; Dutch East India Company (VOC); Cape Colony; Compari-sons of living standards; Economic history of South Africa; Economic history of the Cape Colony;

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References

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  1. Pim de Zwart, 2011. "Real wages at the Cape of Good Hope: A long-term perspective, 1652-1912," Working Papers 0013, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  2. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2007. "Wages, Prices, and Living Standards in China, Japan, and Europe, 1738-1925," Economics Series Working Papers 316, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  3. Broadberry, Stephen N & Gupta, Bishnupriya, 2005. "The Early Modern Great Divergence: Wages, Prices and Economic Development in Europe and Asia, 1500-1800," CEPR Discussion Papers 4947, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Robert C. Allen & Jean‐Pascal Bassino & Debin Ma & Christine Moll‐Murata & Jan Luiten Van Zanden, 2011. "Wages, prices, and living standards in China, 1738–1925: in comparison with Europe, Japan, and India," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64(s1), pages 8-38, February.
  5. Allen, Robert C., 2001. "The Great Divergence in European Wages and Prices from the Middle Ages to the First World War," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 411-447, October.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Lessons from the Cape Colony
    by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2012-03-15 10:30:02
  2. Lessons from the Cape Colony
    by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2012-03-15 10:30:02
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Cited by:
  1. Johan Fourie & Dieter von Fintel, 2011. "A History With Evidence: Income inequality in the Dutch Cape Colony," Working Papers 0007, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  2. Pim de Zwart, 2011. "Real wages at the Cape of Good Hope: A long-term perspective, 1652-1912," Working Papers 0013, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  3. Johan Fourie & Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2012. "GDP in the Dutch Cape Colony: The national accounts of a slave-based society," Working Papers 0030, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  4. Patrizio Piraino & Sean Muller & Jeanne Cilliers & Johan Fourie, 2013. "The transmission of longevity across generations: The case of the settler Cape Colony," Working Papers 14/2013, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  5. Jerven, Morten & Austin, Gareth & Green, Erik & Uche, Chibuike & Frankema, Ewout & Fourie, Johan & Inikori, Joseph & Moradi, Alexander & Hillbom, Ellen, 2012. "Moving Forward in African Economic History. Bridging the Gap Between Methods and Sources," Lund Papers in Economic History 124, Department of Economic History, Lund University.

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