Pearls worth Rds4000 or less: Reinterpreting eighteenth century sumptuary laws at the Cape
Governor Ryk Tulbagh promulgated sumptuary laws at the Cape in 1755. Umbrellas could no longer be carried freely by all classes, silk dresses of a certain length could not be worn by ladies without regard to rank, and the value of pearl necklaces was strictly limited. These laws have often been interpreted as an attempt to maintain a social hierarchy (e.g. Ross 1990), a "defence against emulation" in the words of De Vries (2008). But the standard explanation leaves something to be desired: it does not engage with the economic motivation for sumptuary laws that influenced similar regulations in Europe and Asia at the time, nor does it explain why the VOC would legislate in the Cape what the Dutch never tolerated at home, and it seamlessly extrapolates the explanation for laws in Batavia to a different social and economic setting in the Cape. An alternative interpretation of Tulbaghâ€™s sumptuary laws is developed in this paper, which draws on evidence from the Cape and from Batavia. Their economic causes are sought in the East, where the laws originated, while their social reception and their impact are sought in the records of the Cape. In this way the paper provides a new interpretation of the causes underlying the sumptuary laws of 1755 and their role as instruments of economic and social policy.
|Date of creation:||2013|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: Newlands on Main, F0301 3rd Floor Mariendahl House, cnr Campground and Main Rds, Claremont, 7700 Cape Town|
Phone: 021 671-3980
Fax: +27 21 671 3912
Web page: http://www.econrsa.org/
More information through EDIRC
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:rza:wpaper:336. 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: (Charles Tanton)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.