IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/taf/rehdxx/v27y2012i1p125-149.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Happy in the Service of the Company: The Purchasing Power of VOC Salaries at the Cape in the 18th Century

Author

Listed:
  • Sophia Du Plessis
  • Stan Du Plessis

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 literature 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. This paper adds to this literature by adapting the consumption basket for local circumstances (due to both diet and relative prices) and the comparison for local demographics. We also provide a broader range of comparative statistics on real wages. Finally, we add the real wages of skilled workers to the comparison of unskilled workers offered in the literature to date. While the paper is based on real wages for VOC officials the mechanism we identify as the cause of this rising prosperity (sustained lower prices of consumption goods) would have raised the prosperity of all colonists at the Cape.

Suggested Citation

  • Sophia Du Plessis & Stan Du Plessis, 2012. "Happy in the Service of the Company: The Purchasing Power of VOC Salaries at the Cape in the 18th Century," Economic History of Developing Regions, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 27(1), pages 125-149.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rehdxx:v:27:y:2012:i:1:p:125-149
    DOI: 10.1080/20780389.2012.682398
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1080/20780389.2012.682398
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.1080/20780389.2012.682398?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

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

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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, pages 8-38, February.
    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. 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.
    4. Stephen Broadberry & Bishnupriya Gupta, 2006. "The early modern great divergence: wages, prices and economic development in Europe and Asia, 1500–1800," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 59(1), pages 2-31, 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    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 15:30:02
    2. Lessons from the Cape Colony
      by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2012-03-15 15:30:02

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Johan Fourie & Jan Luiten Zanden, 2013. "GDP in the Dutch Cape Colony: The National Accounts of a Slave-Based Society," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 81(4), pages 467-490, December.
    2. Johan Fourie & Dieter von Fintel, 2010. "A History with Evidence: Income inequality in the Dutch Cape Colony," Working Papers 23/2010, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    3. Sophia du Plessis & Ada Jansen & Dieter von Fintel, 2014. "Slave prices and productivity at the Cape of Good Hope from 1700 to 1725: did all settler farmers profit from the trade?," Working Papers 17/2014, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics, revised 2014.
    4. 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, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    5. Willem H. Boshoff & Johan Fourie, 2015. "When did globalization begin in South Africa?," Working Papers 10/2015, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    6. Martins, Igor, 2019. "An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade: The Effects of an Import Ban on Cape Colony Slaveholders," African Economic History Working Paper 43/2019, African Economic History Network.
    7. Piraino, Patrizio & Muller, Sean & Cilliers, Jeanne & Fourie, Johan, 2013. "The transmission of longevity across generations: The case of the settler Cape Colony," SALDRU Working Papers 113, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    8. Johan Fourie & Nonso Obikili, 2019. "Decolonizing with data: The cliometric turn in African economic history," Working Papers 02/2019, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    9. Johan Fourie, 2018. "Cliometrics in South Africa," Working Papers 14/2018, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    10. 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.
    11. Bokang Mpeta & Johan Fourie & Kris Inwood, 2017. "Black living standards in South Africa before democracy: New evidence from heights," Working Papers 670, Economic Research Southern Africa.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Ewout Frankema & Marlous van Waijenburg, 2011. "Structural Impediments to African Growth? New Evidence from Real Wages in British Africa, 1880-1965," Working Papers 0024, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    2. Bassino, Jean-Pascal & Broadberry, Stephen & Fukao, Kyoji & Gupta, Bishnupriya & Takashima, Masanori, 2019. "Japan and the great divergence, 730–1874," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 1-22.
    3. 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.
    4. Ewout Frankema & Marlous van Waijenburg, 2011. "African Real Wages in Asian Perspective, 1880-1940," Working Papers 0002, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    5. Julio Martínez-Galarraga & Marc Prat, 2014. "Wages and prices in early Catalan industrialisation," UB Economics Working Papers 2014/305, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB School of Economics.
    6. Studer, Roman, 2008. "India and the Great Divergence: Assessing the Efficiency of Grain Markets in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century India," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(2), pages 393-437, June.
    7. Broadberry Stephen, 2012. "Recent Developments in the Theory of Very Long Run Growth: A Historical Appraisal," Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte / Economic History Yearbook, De Gruyter, vol. 53(1), pages 277-306, May.
    8. Robert C. Allen, 2015. "The high wage economy and the industrial revolution: a restatement," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(1), pages 1-22, February.
    9. Ulrich Pfister & Jana Riedel & Martin Uebele, 2012. "Real Wages and the Origins of Modern Economic Growth in Germany, 16th to 19th Centuries," Working Papers 0017, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    10. Broadberry, Stephen & Ghosal, Sayantan & Proto, Eugenio, 2017. "Anonymity, efficiency wages and technological progress," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 379-394.
    11. Arroyo Abad, Leticia & Davies, Elwyn & van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2012. "Between conquest and independence: Real wages and demographic change in Spanish America, 1530–1820," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 149-166.
    12. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2011. "Technology and the Great Divergence," Economics Series Working Papers 548, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    13. Myung Soo Cha, 2012. "Wage Convergence and Divergence in East Asia, 1900-39," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series gd12-253, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    14. Maarten Bosker & Steven Brakman & Harry Garretsen & Herman de Jong & Marc Schramm, 2007. "The Development of Cities in Italy 1300 – 1861," CESifo Working Paper Series 1893, CESifo.
    15. Rafael Dobado González & Hector García, 2009. "Neither so low nor so short! Wages and heights in eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries colonial Hispanic America," Working Papers del Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales 0914, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales.
    16. Broadberry, Stephen N & Guan, Hanhui & Li, David Daokui, 2017. "China, Europe and the great Divergence: A Study in Historical National Accounting, 980-1850," CEPR Discussion Papers 11972, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    17. Ashenfelter, Orley, 2012. "Comparing Real Wage Rates," IZA Discussion Papers 6500, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    18. Johan Fourie & Jan Luiten Zanden, 2013. "GDP in the Dutch Cape Colony: The National Accounts of a Slave-Based Society," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 81(4), pages 467-490, December.
    19. Robert C. Allen, 2021. "The Interplay among Wages, Technology, and Globalization: The Labour Market and Inequality, 1620-2020," Working Papers 20210065, New York University Abu Dhabi, Department of Social Science, revised Jun 2021.
    20. Robert C. Allen, 2019. "Real wages once more: a response to Judy Stephenson," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 72(2), pages 738-754, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania
    • N97 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Africa; Oceania
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation

    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:taf:rehdxx:v:27:y:2012:i:1:p:125-149. 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://www.tandfonline.com/rehd20 .

    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.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with 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.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Chris Longhurst (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://www.tandfonline.com/rehd20 .

    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.