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Climate, ecosystem resilience 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, 2013. "Climate, ecosystem resilience and the slave trade," MPRA Paper 50816, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:50816
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Anastasia Litina, 2016. "Natural land productivity, cooperation and comparative development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(4), pages 351-408, December.
    3. Dieter von Fintel, 2016. "Wage flexibility in a high unemployment regime: spatial heterogeneity and the size of local labour markets," Working Papers 09/2016, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    4. Dalton, John T. & Leung, Tin Cheuk, 2015. "Dispersion and distortions in the trans-Atlantic slave trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 412-425.
    5. Fenske, James & Kala, Namrata, 2017. "1807: Economic shocks, conflict and the slave trade," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 66-76.
    6. 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.
    7. Klas Rönnbäck, 2014. "Climate, conflicts, and variations in prices on pre-colonial West African markets for staple crops," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(4), pages 1065-1088, November.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Africa; climate change; slave trade; temperature;
    All these keywords.

    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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