IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Geography, European colonization, and past population dynamics in Africa


  • Luis Vaz Silva


Past population dynamics in Africa have remained largely elusive due to the lack of demographic data. Researchers are understandably deterred from trying to explain what is not known and African historical population estimates suffer from this lack of interest. In this paper I explain present day African population densities using mostly ecological factors as explanatory variables. I find evidence supporting the view that ecological factors deeply affected precolonial patterns of human settlement in Sub-Saharan Africa. Human populations grew relatively large in the presence of lakes, highlands, or when situated in the wet, coastal regions of Western Africa. Other environmental suites were thinly populated with overall population sizes stagnant at low or very low steady states. Subsequent developments show that dramatic increases in the agricultural productivity of peripheral, semiarid areas were possible once colonial innovations were on hand. Thus, European colonization had likely asymmetric effects on the population dynamics of different regions of Africa.

Suggested Citation

  • Luis Vaz Silva, 2005. "Geography, European colonization, and past population dynamics in Africa," Working Papers 200705, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:200705

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: First version, 2005
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. J. Peter Neary, 2016. "International Trade in General Oligopolistic Equilibrium," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(4), pages 669-698, September.
    2. Christian Broda & David E. Weinstein, 2006. "Globalization and the Gains From Variety," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 541-585.
    3. Justin P. Johnson & David P. Myatt, 2003. "Multiproduct Quality Competition: Fighting Brands and Product Line Pruning," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 748-774, June.
    4. Brander, James A & Eaton, Jonathan, 1984. "Product Line Rivalry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 323-334, June.
    5. John Baldwin & Wulong Gu, 2009. "The Impact of Trade on Plant Scale, Production-Run Length and Diversification," NBER Chapters,in: Producer Dynamics: New Evidence from Micro Data, pages 557-592 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Ottaviano, G.I.P. & Thisse, J.-F., 1999. "Monopolistic Competition, Multiproduct Firms and Optimum Product Diversity," Economics Working Papers eco99/31, European University Institute.
    7. Carsten Eckel, 2009. "International trade, flexible manufacturing, and outsourcing," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1449-1472, November.
    8. Baldwin, Richard E. & Ottaviano, Gianmarco I. P., 2001. "Multiproduct multinationals and reciprocal FDI dumping," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 429-448, August.
    9. Andrew B. Bernard & Stephen J. Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2011. "Multiproduct Firms and Trade Liberalization," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(3), pages 1271-1318.
    10. Norman, George & Thisse, Jacques-Francois, 1999. "Technology Choice and Market Structure: Strategic Aspects of Flexible Manufacturing," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(3), pages 345-372, September.
    11. Eaton, B Curtis & Schmitt, Nicolas, 1994. "Flexible Manufacturing and Market Structure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 875-888, September.
    12. Allanson, Paul & Montagna, Catia, 2005. "Multiproduct firms and market structure: An explorative application to the product life cycle," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(7-8), pages 587-597, September.
    13. Jiandong Ju, 2003. "Oligopolistic Competition, Technology Innovation, and Multiproduct Firms," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(2), pages 346-359, May.
    14. Volker Grossmann, 2003. "Firm Size and Diversification: Asymmetric Multiproduct Firms under Cournot Competition," CESifo Working Paper Series 1047, CESifo Group Munich.
    15. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-528, June.
    16. Jane Humphries, 2016. "Spinning the Industrial Revolution," Economics Series Working Papers 145, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:200705. 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: (Nicolas Clifton). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.