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Settler Skills and Colonial Development

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  • Johan Fourie
  • Dieter von Fintel

Abstract

The emphasis on location-specific factors, such as climate or disease environment, in the explanation of development outcomes in colonial societies implicitly assumes that settler groups were homogenous. Using tax records, this paper shows that the French Huguenots who immigrated to Dutch South Africa at the end of the 17th century were more productive winemakers than the already established non-French farmers. Standard factors of production usually associated with faster growth do not explain the differences between the two groups. We posit that the skills of the Huguenots – the ability to make quality wines – provided a sustainable competitive advantage that not only explains initial but persistent productivity differences. We test this hypothesis by dividing the French settlers into two groups – those originating from wine regions, and those from wheat regions – and comparing them with other settler groups. Potential differences between the French (overall) and the Dutch may be attributable to institutional and cultural differences, while variations within the French group are more likely to be skill-related. This intuitive but important insight – that home-country production determines settler-society productivity, even in later generations – sheds new light on our understanding of how newly-settled colonial societies develop, and of the importance of knowledge and skills in economic growth.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History in its series Working Papers with number 0009.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucg:wpaper:0009

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Postal: University of Utrecht, Drift 10, The Netherlands
Web page: http://www.cgeh.nl
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Related research

Keywords: South Africa; Cape Colony; French Huguenots; VOC; wine; slaves;

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References

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  1. A'Hearn, Brian & Baten, Jörg & Crayen, Dorothee, 2009. "Quantifying Quantitative Literacy: Age Heaping and the History of Human Capital," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(03), pages 783-808, September.
  2. Olsson, Ola & Hibbs, Douglas Jr., 2005. "Biogeography and long-run economic development," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 909-938, May.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Easterly and Levine (2012) and the deathly hallows
    by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2012-06-28 14:23:02
  2. Lessons from the Cape Colony
    by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2012-03-15 10:30:02
  3. Lessons from the Cape Colony
    by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2012-03-15 10:30:02
  4. South Africa: A country of migrants
    by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2013-12-03 08:18:43
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Cited by:
  1. Jörg Baten & Johan Fourie, 2012. "Slave numeracy in the Cape Colony and comparative development in the eighteenth century," Working Papers 270, Economic Research Southern Africa.
  2. Johan Fourie, 2011. "Slaves as capital investment in the Dutch Cape Colony, 1652-1795," Working Papers 21/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  3. Erik Hornung, 2014. "Immigration and the Diffusion of Technology: The Huguenot Diaspora in Prussia," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(1), pages 84-122, January.
  4. Erik Hornung, 2012. "Human Capital, Technology Diffusion, and Economic Growth - Evidence from Prussian Census Data," ifo Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsforschung, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 46, 8.

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