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Numeracy of Africans, Asians, and Europeans during the early modern period: new evidence from Cape Colony court registers

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  • Jörg Baten
  • Johan Fourie

Abstract

type="main"> The lack of accurate measures of human capital formation often constrains investigations into the long-run determinants of growth and comparative economic development, especially in the developing world. Using the reported ages of criminals in the Court of Justice records in the Cape Archives, this article documents for the first time numeracy levels and trends for inhabitants of the Cape Colony born between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth century: the native Khoesan, European settlers, and imported slaves from other African regions and Asia. This variety of origins allows us to compare contemporaneous levels of early modern development across three continents. By isolating those slaves born at the Cape, we also provide a glimpse into the dynamics of human capital transfer in a colonial setting. The Colony's relatively high level of human capital overall had implications for what was later to be the richest country on African soil, but the very unequal attainment of numeracy also foreshadowed extreme income inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Jörg Baten & Johan Fourie, 2015. "Numeracy of Africans, Asians, and Europeans during the early modern period: new evidence from Cape Colony court registers," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(2), pages 632-656, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ehsrev:v:68:y:2015:i:2:p:632-656
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/1468-0289.12064
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Johan Fourie, 2018. "Cliometrics in South Africa," Working Papers 14/2018, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    2. Willem H. Boshoff & Johan Fourie, 2015. "When did globalization begin in South Africa?," Working Papers 10/2015, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    3. Gabriele Cappelli & Jörg Baten, 2017. "European Trade, Colonialism and Human Capital Accumulation in Senegal, Gambia and Western Mali, 1770 - 1900," CESifo Working Paper Series 6468, CESifo.
    4. Matthias Blum & Christopher L. Colvin & Laura McAtackney & Eoin McLaughlin, 2017. "Women of an uncertain age: quantifying human capital accumulation in rural Ireland in the nineteenth century," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 70(1), pages 187-223, February.
    5. Matthias Blum & Karl†Peter Krauss, 2018. "Age heaping and numeracy: looking behind the curtain," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(2), pages 464-479, May.
    6. Michiel De Haas & Ewout Frankema, 2018. "Gender, ethnicity, and unequal opportunity in colonial Uganda: European influences, African realities, and the pitfalls of parish register data," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(3), pages 965-994, August.
    7. Pavitra Dhamija, 2020. "Economic Development and South Africa: 25 Years Analysis (1994 to 2019)," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 88(3), pages 298-322, September.
    8. Baten, Jörg & Cappelli, Gabriele, 2016. "The Evolution of Human Capital in Africa, 1730 -1970: A Colonial Legacy?," CEPR Discussion Papers 11273, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Johan Fourie & Nonso Obikili, 2019. "Decolonizing with data: The cliometric turn in African economic history," Working Papers 02/2019, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    10. Cappelli, Gabriele & Baten, Joerg, 2021. "Numeracy development in Africa: New evidence from a long-term perspective (1730–1970)," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 150(C).

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