IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/afc/cliome/v9y2015i3p289-330.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Slave prices and productivity at the Cape of Good Hope from 1700 to 1725: Did everyone win from the trade?

Author

Listed:
  • Sophia Du Plessis

    () (Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa)

  • Ada Jansen

    (Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa)

  • Dieter von Fintel

    (Institute fir the Study of Labour (IZA), Bonn, Germany)

Abstract

This paper analyses the economic viability of slavery in the Cape Colony in southern Africa. It has been extensively documented that the affluence of elites was built on the importation of slaves. However, the Dutch East India Company or Verengide Oost-indische Companje, which administrated the colony, expressed concerns that free settlers had invested too much capital in the trade, so that some indications exist that profitability was not certain for all farmers. In this paper, hedonic slave price indices and the value of their marginal productivity have been estimated, to construct annual returns, which are in turn compared with returns on other investments for the period 1700–1725. Hedonic price functions were estimated to remove the anticipated lifetime returns that slaves would yield and to isolate buyers’ perceived depreciation of the slave for 1 year. Cobb–Douglas production functions were estimated for average farmers, as well as at various quintiles along the distribution, to evaluate scale effects. Large farmers enjoyed high returns to slavery over most of the period, confirming the assertions that the elite used slaves profitably. Small farmers, however, did not recoup slave costs from agricultural production: this suggests either that they overinvested in slavery relative to other capital goods (e.g. ploughs or wagons), or that they used slaves profitably outside of agriculture.

Suggested Citation

  • Sophia Du Plessis & Ada Jansen & Dieter von Fintel, 2015. "Slave prices and productivity at the Cape of Good Hope from 1700 to 1725: Did everyone win from the trade?," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 9(3), pages 289-330, september.
  • Handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:9:y:2015:i:3:p:289-330
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11698-014-0116-8
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to journal subscribers

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cape Colony; Productivity of slaves; Profitability of slaves;

    JEL classification:

    • J47 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Coercive Labor Markets
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:9:y:2015:i:3:p:289-330. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/afcccea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.