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African Real Wages in Asian Perspective, 1880-1940

  • Ewout Frankema

    ()

    (Utrecht University)

  • Marlous van Waijenburg

This paper offers time-series of urban unskilled labor wages and commodity prices in eight British African colonies (1880-1940) and shows that real wages were above subsistence level and rising, especially during the interwar years. Real wages in West Africa and Mauritius were even considerably higher than in some major Asian cities. Our results cast doubt onstudies emphasizing the existence of structural impediments to African economic growth. We also document an East-West divergence within Africa and argue this was caused byvariations in colonial land and labor market institutions, challenging the view that Africancolonial institutions were exclusively extractive.

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File URL: http://www.cgeh.nl/sites/default/files/WorkingPapers/CGEH.WP_.No2_.FrankemavanWaijenburg.jan2011.pdf
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Paper provided by Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History in its series Working Papers with number 0002.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucg:wpaper:0002
Contact details of provider: Postal: University of Utrecht, Drift 10, The Netherlands
Web page: http://www.cgeh.nl

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  1. van Zanden, Jan L., 1999. "Wages and the standard of living in Europe, 1500 1800," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(02), pages 175-197, August.
  2. Frankema, Ewout, 2011. "Colonial taxation and government spending in British Africa, 1880-1940: Maximizing revenue or minimizing effort?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 136-149, January.
  3. Nunn, Nathan, 2007. "The Long-Term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," MPRA Paper 4134, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. James Fenske, 2013. "Does Land Abundance Explain African Institutions?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 123(12), pages 1363-1390, December.
  5. zmucur, S leyman & Pamuk, Sevket, 2002. "Real Wages And Standards Of Living In The Ottoman Empire, 1489 1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 293-321, June.
  6. Sue Bowden & Blessing Chiripanhura & Paul Mosley, 2008. "Measuring and explaining poverty in six African countries: A long-period approach," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(8), pages 1049-1079.
  7. Allen, Robert C., 2001. "The Great Divergence in European Wages and Prices from the Middle Ages to the First World War," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 411-447, October.
  8. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521868273 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Ewout Frankema, 2010. "The colonial roots of land inequality: geography, factor endowments, or institutions?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 63(2), pages 418-451, 05.
  10. Frankema, Ewout, 2010. "Raising revenue in the British empire, 1870–1940: how ‘extractive’ were colonial taxes?," Journal of Global History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(03), pages 447-477, November.
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