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A survey and comparison of luxury item ownership in the eighteenth century Dutch Cape Colony

Author

Listed:
  • Johan Fourie

    () (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

  • Jolandi Uys

    () (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

Abstract

What we know about the material culture of eighteenth century Cape Colony settlers is mostly limited to qualitative evidence found in official documents, letters, travel accounts and other correspondence. This paper uses a new quantitative source – the MOOC probate inventories – to ascertain the nature, growth and distribution of luxury good ownership in the Cape Colony. The survey reveals a marginal increase over the course of the eighteenth century in per capita ownership, although the trend masks greater movements within different wealth groups, which supports the notion of high inequality within the European society at the Cape. Yet, even given such inequality, the evidence suggests that even the poorest had access to the most basic amenities. In fact, comparisons with European and North American regions suggest that the Cape settlers were often more affluent, refuting the notion that the Cape Colony was an “economic and social backwater”.

Suggested Citation

  • Johan Fourie & Jolandi Uys, 2011. "A survey and comparison of luxury item ownership in the eighteenth century Dutch Cape Colony," Working Papers 14/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers142
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    File URL: https://www.ekon.sun.ac.za/wpapers/2011/wp142011/wp-14-2011.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2011
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Boshoff, Willem H. & Fourie, Johan, 2010. "The significance of the Cape trade route to economic activity in the Cape Colony: a medium-term business cycle analysis," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(03), pages 469-503, December.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    South Africa; Cape Colony; French Huguenots; VOC; wine; slaves;

    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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