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Climate, ecosystem resilience and the slave trade

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  • James Fenske
  • Namrata Kala

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

  • James Fenske & Namrata Kala, 2012. "Climate, ecosystem resilience and the slave trade," CSAE Working Paper Series 2012-23, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2012-23
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    3. Anderson, R. Warren & Johnson, Noel D & Koyama, Mark, 2013. "From the Persecuting to the Protective State? Jewish Expulsions and Weather Shocks from 1100 to 1800," MPRA Paper 44228, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Nunn, Nathan, 2014. "Historical Development," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 7, pages 347-402, Elsevier.
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    7. Fenske, James & Kala, Namrata, 2017. "1807: Economic shocks, conflict and the slave trade," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 66-76.

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    JEL classification:

    • N57 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Africa; Oceania
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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