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"For the public benefit": Railways in the British Cape Colony


  • Herranz-Loncán, Alfonso

    () (University of Barcelona)

  • Fourie, Johan

    () (Stellenbosch University)


Built mostly to support the early mining industry, the Cape Colony’s railways reduced the cost of transport to the interior and increased labor productivity in the Colony from 1859 to 1905 by, we calculate, 30 percent. Little of the gains went to the state-owned company: the Cape parliament seems always to have seen the railways as a means to development. But the politically overrepresented western parts of the Colony gained much more than underrepresented areas like Basutoland or the Transkei. While boosting the economy, the railways also had distributional effects, with consequences for racial segregation in twentieth-century South Africa.

Suggested Citation

  • Herranz-Loncán, Alfonso & Fourie, Johan, 2016. ""For the public benefit": Railways in the British Cape Colony," African Economic History Working Paper 30/2016, African Economic History Network.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:afekhi:2016_030

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

    Cited by:

    1. Jeanne Cilliers & Johan Fourie, 2017. "Social mobility during South Africa’s industrial take-off," Working Papers 04/2017, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    2. Tawanda Chingozha & Dieter von Fintel, 2019. "Property rights, market access and crop cultivation in Southern Rhodesia: evidence from historical satellite data," Working Papers 03/2019, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    3. Johan Fourie & Nonso Obikili, 2019. "Decolonizing with data: The cliometric turn in African economic history," Working Papers 02/2019, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    4. Johan Fourie, 2018. "Cliometrics in South Africa," Working Papers 14/2018, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    5. Abel Gwaindepi, 2019. "Serving God and Mammon: the ‘minerals-railway complex’ and its effects on colonial public finances in the British Cape Colony, 1810-1910," Working Papers 07/2019, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    6. Bolt, Jutta & Gardner, Leigh, 2018. "Tax Compliance under Indirect Rule in British Africa," African Economic History Working Paper 40/2018, African Economic History Network.

    More about this item


    railways; infrastructure; public goods; South Africa; social savings;

    JEL classification:

    • H40 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - General
    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General


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