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Climate and the slave trade

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  • Fenske, James
  • Kala, Namrata

Abstract

African societies exported more slaves in colder years. Lower temperatures reduced mortality and raised agricultural yields, lowering slave supply costs. Our results help explain African participation in the slave trade, which predicts adverse outcomes today. We use an annual panel of African temperatures and port-level slave exports to show that exports declined when local temperatures were warmer than normal. This result is strongest where African ecosystems are least resilient to climate change. Cold weather shocks at the peak of the slave trade predict lower economic activity today. We support our interpretation using the histories of Whydah, Benguela, and Mozambique.

Suggested Citation

  • Fenske, James & Kala, Namrata, 2015. "Climate and the slave trade," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 19-32.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:112:y:2015:i:c:p:19-32
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2014.10.001
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    Cited by:

    1. Papaioannou, Kostadis J. & de Haas, Michiel, 2017. "Weather Shocks and Agricultural Commercialization in Colonial Tropical Africa: Did Cash Crops Alleviate Social Distress?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 346-365.
    2. Whatley, Warren C., 2018. "The gun-slave hypothesis and the 18th century British slave trade," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 80-104.
    3. Graziella Bertocchi, 2016. "The legacies of slavery in and out of Africa," IZA Journal of Migration and Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-19, December.
    4. Anastasia Litina, 2016. "Natural land productivity, cooperation and comparative development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(4), pages 351-408, December.
    5. Fintel, Dieter von & Fourie, Johan, 2019. "The great divergence in South Africa: Population and wealth dynamics over two centuries," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 759-773.
    6. Boxell, Levi, 2019. "Droughts, conflict, and the African slave trade," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 774-791.
    7. Mark Dincecco & James Fenske & Massimiliano Gaetano Onorato, 2019. "Is Africa Different? Historical Conflict and State Development," Economic History of Developing Regions, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(2), pages 209-250, May.
    8. Ticku, R. & Shrivastava, A. & Iyer, S., 2018. "Economic Shocks and Temple Desecrations in Medieval India," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1862, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    9. Boxell, Levi & Dalton, John T. & Leung, Tin Cheuk, 2019. "The Slave Trade and Conflict in Africa, 1400-2000," MPRA Paper 94468, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. V. Licio, 2019. "When history leaves a mark: a new measure of Roman roads," Working Paper CRENoS 201904, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
    11. Johan Fourie & Nonso Obikili, 2019. "Decolonizing with data: The cliometric turn in African economic history," Working Papers 02/2019, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    12. Graziella Bertocchi, 2016. "The Legacies of Slavery in and out of Africa," Department of Economics 0096, University of Modena and Reggio E., Faculty of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    13. Klas Rönnbäck & Dimitrios Theodoridis, 2019. "African agricultural productivity and the transatlantic slave trade: evidence from Senegambia in the nineteenth century," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 72(1), pages 209-232, February.
    14. Fenske, James & Kala, Namrata, 2017. "1807: Economic shocks, conflict and the slave trade," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 66-76.
    15. Cherniwchan, Jevan & Moreno-Cruz, Juan, 2019. "Maize and precolonial Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 137-150.
    16. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2020. "Historical Legacies and African Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 58(1), pages 53-128, March.
    17. Kostadis J. Papaioannou, 2017. "“Hunger makes a thief of any man”: Poverty and crime in British colonial Asia," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(1), pages 1-28.
    18. Dalton, John & Leung, Tin Cheuk, 2015. "Being Bad by Being Good: Owner and Captain Value-Added in the Slave Trade," MPRA Paper 66865, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Gershman, Boris, 2020. "Witchcraft beliefs as a cultural legacy of the Atlantic slave trade: Evidence from two continents," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 122(C).

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