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Settler skills and colonial development

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  • Johan Fourie
  • Dieter von Fintel

Abstract

The emphasis on location-specific factors, such as climate or disease environment, in the explanation of development outcomes in colonial societies implicitly assumes that settler groups were homogenous. Using tax records, this paper shows that the French Huguenots who immigrated to Dutch South Africa at the end of the 17th century were more productive wine-makers than the already-established non-French farmers. Standard factors of production usually associated with faster growth do not explain the differences between the two groups. We posit that the skills of the Huguenots — the ability to make quality wines — provided a sustainable competitive advantage that not only explains initial but persistent productivity differences. We test this hypothesis by dividing the French settlers into two groups — those originating from wine regions, and those from wheat regions — and comparing them with other settler groups. Potential differences between the French (overall) and the Dutch may be attributable to institutional and cultural differences, while variations within the French group are more likely to be skill-related. This intuitive but important insight — that home-country production determines settler-society productivity, even in later generations — sheds new light on our understanding of how newly settled colonial societies develop, and of the importance of knowledge and skills in economic growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Johan Fourie & Dieter von Fintel, 2011. "Settler skills and colonial development," Working Papers 213, Economic Research Southern Africa.
  • Handle: RePEc:rza:wpaper:213
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    File URL: https://www.econrsa.org/node/236
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. A'Hearn, Brian & Baten, Jörg & Crayen, Dorothee, 2009. "Quantifying Quantitative Literacy: Age Heaping and the History of Human Capital," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(3), pages 783-808, September.
    2. Olsson, Ola & Hibbs, Douglas Jr., 2005. "Biogeography and long-run economic development," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 909-938, May.
    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
    3. South Africa: A country of migrants
      by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2013-12-03 14:18:43
    4. The fruit of the vine
      by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2014-11-21 11:41:14
    5. The fruit of the vine
      by ? in Johan Fourie's blog on 2014-11-21 11:41:00
    6. Easterly and Levine (2012) and the deathly hallows
      by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2012-06-28 19:23:02

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Boberg-Fazlic, Nina & Sharp, Paul, 2019. "Immigrant Communities and Knowledge Spillovers: DanishAmericans and the Development of the Dairy Industry in the United States," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 420, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    2. Rudi Rocha & Claudio Ferraz & Rodrigo R. Soares, 2017. "Human Capital Persistence and Development," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 105-136, October.
    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. J. Fourie, 2018. "Cliometrics in South Africa," Studies in Economics and Econometrics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(2), pages 1-14, August.
    5. Erik Hornung, 2014. "Immigration and the Diffusion of Technology: The Huguenot Diaspora in Prussia," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(1), pages 84-122, January.
    6. Erik Hornung, 2012. "Humankapital, technologische Diffusion und Wachstum - Entwicklung in Preußen," ifo Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsforschung, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 46.
    7. 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.
    8. Jörg Baten & Johan Fourie, 2012. "Slave numeracy in the Cape Colony and comparative development in the eighteenth century," Working Papers 270, Economic Research Southern Africa.
    9. Johan Fourie, 2011. "Slaves as capital investment in the Dutch Cape Colony, 1652-1795," Working Papers 21/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    South Africa; Cape Colony; French Huguenots; VOC; wine; slaves;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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