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The Land–Labour Hypothesis in a Settler Economy: Wealth, Labour and Household Composition on the South African Frontier

  • Jeanne Cilliers (a1) and Erik Green (a2)
Abstract

Traditional frontier literature identifies a positive correlation between land availability and fertility. A common explanation is that the demand for child labour is higher in newly established frontier regions compared to older, more densely populated farming regions. In this paper, we contribute to the debate by analysing the relationship between household composition and land availability in a closing frontier region, i.e. the Graaff-Reinet district in South Africa’s Cape Colony from 1798–1828. We show that the number of children in farming households increased with frontier closure, while the presence of non-family labourers decreased over time. Contrasting with the classic interpretation, we explain this by acknowledging that the demand for family labour was not a function of its marginal productivity and that farmers reacted differently to diminishing land availability depending on their wealth. Poorer households, which made up the majority of this frontier population, responded to shrinking land availability by employing relatively more family labour, while the wealthiest group invested in strengthening market access.

TRANSLATED ABSTRACTS FRENCH – GERMAN – SPANISH

Jeanne Cilliers et Erik Green. L’hypothèse sur la disponibilité de terres et la main d’œuvre dans une économie de colons: richesse, main d’œuvre et composition du ménage à la frontière sud-africaine.

La littérature traditionnelle de la frontière identifie une corrélation positive entre la disponibilité de terres et la fertilité. Une explication courante est que la demande de travail des enfants est supérieure dans les régions frontalières nouvellement établies, par comparaison avec d’anciennes régions agricoles plus densément peuplées. Dans cet article, nous contribuons au débat en analysant la relation entre la composition du ménage et la disponibilité de terres dans une région frontalière en train de fermer, le district de Graaff-Reinert dans la Colonie du Cap en Afrique du Sud, entre 1798 et 1828. Les auteurs montrent que le nombre des enfants dans les ménages agricoles augmenta avec la fermeture des frontières, tandis que la présence d’ouvriers agricoles non familiaux déclina au fil des ans. Contrairement à l’interprétation classique, nous expliquons ce phénomène en reconnaissant que la demande de travailleurs familiaux ne dépendit pas de sa productivité marginale, et que les exploitants agricoles réagirent différemment selon leur richesse à la disponibilité de terres diminuante. Les foyers plus pauvres, qui constituaient la majorité de cette population frontalière, répondirent à la disponibilité de terres déclinante en employant relativement plus de main d’œuvre familiale, tandis que le groupe le plus riche investit dans le renforcement de l’accès au marché.

Traduction: Christine Plard

Jeanne Cilliers und Erik Green. Die Land/Arbeitskraft-These in der Siedlerökonomie: Wohlstand, Arbeitskraft und Haushaltszusammensetzung im südafrikanischen Grenzgebiet.

Die traditionelle Literatur zu Grenzgebieten verweist auf eine positive Korrelation zwischen der Verfügbarkeit von Ländereien und der Fertilität der Bevölkerung. Eine gängige Erklärung lautet, dass in neu entstandenen Grenzgebieten eine stärkere Nachfrage nach Kinderarbeit besteht als in älteren, dichter besiedelten landwirtschaftlichen Gebieten. Der Artikel leistet einen Beitrag zur Debatte, indem er dem Zusammenhang von Haushaltszusammensetzung und der Verfügbarkeit von Ländereien in einem sich stabilisierenden Grenzgebiet der südafrikanischen Kapkolonie, dem Graaff-Reinet-Distrikt zwischen 1798–1828, nachgeht. Es wird gezeigt, dass die Kinderzahl in den landwirtschaftlich tätigen Haushalten mit der Stabilisierung des Grenzgebiets zugenommen hat, wohingegen die Zahl nicht-familiärer Arbeitskräfte rückläufig war. Dieser der klassischen Interpretation entgegenstehende Befund wird durch den Hinweis erklärt, dass die Nachfrage nach familiärer Arbeitskraft keine Funktion der Grenzproduktivität dieser Arbeitskraft war; darüber hinaus reagierten Landwirte, je nach ihrem Wohlstand, unterschiedlich auf die Verknappung verfügbaren Landes. Ärmere Haushalte, die im Grenzgebiet die Mehrheit stellten, reagierten auf den Schwund an verfügbarem Land durch eine relative Steigerung der Beschäftigung familiärer Arbeitskräfte, wohingegen die Gruppe der wohlhabendsten Siedler in die Ausweitung des Marktzugangs investierte.

Übersetzung: Max Henninger

Jeanne Cilliers y Erik Green. La hipótesis tierra-trabajo en una economía de colonos: Riqueza, trabajo y composición familiar en la frontera sudafricana.

La tradicional literatura de frontera identifica una correlación positiva entre la disponibilidad de tierras y la fertilidad. Una explicación común es que la demanda de trabajo infantil es mayor en las regiones fronterizas establecidas en tiempo reciente en comparación con las regiones agrícolas más antiguas y más densamente pobladas. En el artículo que presentamos pretendemos contribuir a la discusión aportando el análisis de la relación entre la composición familiar y la disponibilidad de tierras en una región fronteriza consolidada, como es el distrito de Graaf-Reinet en la colonia de El Cabo en Sudáfrica en el periodo de 1798-1828. El texto muestra que el número de niños en los hogares agrícolas se incrementa con la consolidación de la frontera, mientras que la presencia de trabajadores no pertenecientes a la familia irá disminuyendo en el trascurso del tiempo. En contraste con la interpretación clásica, esto lo explicamos mediante el reconocimiento de que la demanda de trabajo familiar no era una función de su productividad marginal y que los agricultores reaccionaron de forma distinta a la disminución de las tierras disponibles dependiendo de su riqueza. Los hogares más pobres, que constituían la mayoría de esta población de frontera, respondieron a la disminución de la disponibilidad de tierras empleando relativamente más mano de obra familiar, mientras que el grupo de los hogares más ricos invirtió en fortalcer su acceso a los mercados.

Traducción: Vicent Sanz Rozalén

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16 Henning, Graaff-Reinet, p.3.

17 Guelke, “Freehold Farmers”, p. 85.

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19 Quoted in Neumark, Economic Influences, p. 37.

20 Newton-King, “The Enemy Within”, p. 48.

21 Guelke, “Freehold Farmers”, p. 87.

22 Neumark, Solomon Daniel, Economic Influences on the South African Frontier (Stanford, CA, 1957); van Duin, Peter and Ross, Robert, The Economy of the Cape Colony in the 18th Century (Leiden, 1987); Newton-King, Susan, Masters and Servants on the Cape Eastern Frontier: 1760–1803 (Cambridge, 1999).

23 Susan Newton-King, “The Enemy Within: The Struggle for Ascendancy on the Eastern Cape Frontier, 1760–1800” (Ph.D., University of London, 1992), p. 39.

24 Boers (translated directly from Afrikaans, means farmers) is the collective name given to the settler population group of Dutch and French ancestry.

25 Kenneth Wyndham Smith, “From Frontier to Midlands, A History of the Graaff-Reinet District, 1786–1910” (Ph.D., Rhodes University, 1974), p. 11.

26 Guelke, “Freehold Farmers,” p. 88.

27 Beinart, William, The Rise of Conservation in South Africa: Settlers, Livestock, and the Environment, 1770–1950 (Oxford, 2008), p. 10 .

28 Henry Lichtenstein, Travels in Southern Africa in the Years 1809, 1804, 1805 and 1806. A Plumptre, trans. Two vols. Cape Town (2nd vol. 1930), p. 5.

29 Dubow, Saul, Land, Labour and Merchant Capital in the Pre-Industrial Rural Economy of the Cape: The Experience of the Graaff-Reinet District (1852–72) (Cape Town, 1982), p. 2 .

30 The practice whereby the shepherd allows his flock to graze by day and then returns them to their kraals at night.

31 Dubow, Land, Labour and Merchant Capital, p. 36; on the process of fencing and the consequences for the labour relations, see Lilja, Fredrik, “Inside the Enclosed Farm: Farmers, Shepherds, and the Introduction of New Technology in Cape Wool Farming, 1865–1950”, International Review of Social History, 63:1 (2018), pp. 6389 .

32 Botha, Colin Graham, Early Cape Land Tenure (Cape Town, 1919).

33 Smith, “From Frontier to Midlands”, p. 9.

34 Mitchell, Laura, Belongings: Property, Family, and Identity in Colonial South Africa (An Exploration of Frontiers, 1725–c.1830) (New York, 2009), p. 34 .

35 Fourie, Johan, “The Remarkable Wealth of the Dutch Cape Colony: Measurements from Eighteenth-Century Probate Inventories”, The Economic History Review, 66:2 (2013), 419--448, 421.

36 Newton-King, Masters and Servants, p. 300.

37 Dooling, Wayne, “The Making of a Colonial Elite: Property, Family and Landed Stability in the Cape Colony, c.1750–1834”, Journal of Southern African Studies, 31:1 (2005), pp.147162 .

38 Dubow, Land, Labour and Merchant Capital, p. 46.

39 Grier, Beverly, “Child Labour in Colonial Africa”, in Hugh D. Hindman (ed), The World of Child Labour: An Historical and Regional Survey (New York, 2009), p. 173 .

40 This was also true for pre-industrial England, where child labour was not perceived negatively. To the contrary, it has been suggested that “eighteenth- century poor law records saw idleness of children as a problem” (Cunningham, quoted in Joyce Burnett, “Child Day-Labourers in Agriculture: Evidence from Farm Accounts, 1740–1850”, The Economic History Review, 65:3 (2012), pp. 1077–1099, 1078).

41 Worden, Nigel, Slavery in Dutch South Africa (Cambridge, 1985), p. 11

42 Barrow, quoted in A. Eldredge, Elizabeth, “Slave Raiding Across the Cape Frontier”, in Elizabeth A. Eldredge and Fred Morton (eds), Slavery in South Africa: Captive Labour on the Dutch Frontier (Boulder, CO [etc.], 1994), pp. 93–127, 96 .

43 Smith, “From Frontier to Midlands”, p. 336.

44 Green, Erik, “The Economics of Slavery in the Eighteenth-Century Cape Colony: Revising the Nieboer-Domar Hypothesis”, The International Review of Social History, 59:1 (2014), pp. 39–70, 65.

45 Lichtenstein, Travels in Southern Africa, p. 8.

46 Barrow, John, An Account of the Travels into the Interior of Southern Africa in the Years 1797–1789, (London, 1801), p. 163.

47 Illife, John, “The South African Economy, 1652–1997”, The Economic History Review, 52:1 (1999), pp. 87–103, 90 .

48 Vertress Canby Malherbe, Diversification and Mobility of Khoikhoi Labour in the Eastern Districts of the Cape Colony Prior to the Labour Low of 1 November 1809, unpublished PhD dissertation (Cape Town, 1978), p. 66.

49 Ibid.

50 Mason, John Edwin, “Fortunate Slaves and Artful Masters: Labour Relations in the Rural Cape Colony During the Era of Emancipation, c.1825–1838”, in Elizabeth Eldridge and Fred Morton (eds) Slavery in South Africa: Captive Labour on the Dutch Frontier (New York, 2009), pp. 7484 .

51 We henceforth refer to this group of slave and Khoe labourers as “non-family” labour to suit the aforementioned theoretical objectives of this paper.

52 Ross, Robert, Cape of Torments: Slavery and Resistance in South Africa (London, 1983), p. 42 .

53 Giliomee, Hermann, “The Eastern Frontier, 1770–1812”, in Richard Elphick and Hermann Giliomee (eds), The Shaping of South African Society, 1652–1840 (Middletown, CT, 1989) pp. 439449 .

54 Marks, Shula, “Khoisan Resistance to the Dutch in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries”, The Journal of African History, 13:1 (1972), pp. 5580 .

55 Freund, William, “The Eastern Frontier of the Cape Colony During the Batavian Period (1803–1806)”, The Journal of African History, XIII (1972), pp. 631645 .

56 Robert, RossThe Origin of Capitalist Agriculture in the Cape Colony: A Survey”, in William Beinart, Peter Delius and Stanley Trapido (eds), Putting a Plough to the Ground, (Johannesburg, 1987), pp. 56–100; Penn, N., The Forgotten Frontier: Colonist and Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century, (Athens, OH, 2005).

57 Smith, “From Frontier to Midlands”, pp. 54–74.

58 Giliomee, Hermann, “Processes in Development of the Southern African Frontier”, in Howard Lamar and Leonard Thompson (eds), The Frontier in History: North America and Southern Africa Compared (London, 1981) pp. 76119 .

59 Neumark, Economic Influences, pp. 115–116.

60 Fourie, Johan and Green, Erik, “The Missing People: Accounting for the Productivity of Indigenous Populations in Cape Colonial History”, The Journal of African History, 56:2 (2015), pp. 195215 .

61 Smith, “From Frontier to Midlands”, pp. 75–81.

62 Ross, Robert, “The Origin of Capitalist Agriculture”; Penn, The Forgotten Frontier .

63 Smith, “From Frontier to Midlands”, pp. 104–107.

64 Ibid., p. 4.

65 Papers Relative to the Condition and Treatment of the Native Inhabitants of Southern Africa (Colonial Department, England, 1835), p. 118.

66 Censuses where not taken for 1808 or 1827. Additionally, 1801 and 1803 were dropped from the sample due to recording inconsistencies.

67 Guelke, Leonard, “The Anatomy of a Colonial Settler Population: Cape Colony 1657–1750”, The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 21:3 (1988), pp. 453473 ; Simkins, Charles and van Heyningen, Elizabeth, “Fertility, Mortality, and Migration in the Cape Colony, 1891–1904”, The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 22:1 (1989), pp. 79111 .

68 Jeanne Cilliers and Martine Mariotti, “The Shaping of a Settler Fertility Transition: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century South African Demographic History Reconsidered”, Lund Papers in Economic History: Population Economics; No. 173, (Lund: Department of Economic History, Lund University, 2018).

69 Auke Rijpma et al., “Record Linkage in the Cape of Good Hope Panel”, Lund Papers in Economic History: Population Economics; No. 172, (Lund: Department of Economic History, Lund University, 2018).

70 Censuses where not conducted in 1808 or 1827.

71 Ibid., p. 20.

72 While is it common for self-reported tax records to underestimate the value of household wealth, we are less concerned with this being a potential source of bias in our sample, since census enumerators personally visited all of the farms in a district to take account of how much these households owned and produced.

73 Here, we were only able to use assets for which the relevant price series were available: cattle, sheep, and goats. The exchange rate between rixdollars and pounds was adjusted as required following Denzel, Markus A., Handbook of World Exchange Rates, 1590–1914 (Farnham, 2010) and for years where no information was available, the assumption was made that the price and or exchange rate remained the same as the previous period.

74 Principal component analysis was also used to estimate a capital wealth score, but the use of nominal capital yielded similar results and their coefficients were simpler to interpret.

75 These capital-type assets were only reported consistently in the Opgaafrollen after 1805. As a result, we only include this variable in our final model which we restrict to the years after 1805.

76 Newton-King, Masters and Servants, p. 48.

77 Fourie, Johan and Von Fintel, Dieter, “The Dynamics of Inequality in a Newly Settled, Pre-Industrial Society: The Case of the Cape Colony”, Cliometrica, 4:3 (2010), pp. 229267 .

78 Details about the models we have selected together with the full output from the regressions can be found in the empirical appendix.

79 Given that the prices we use to measure the real value of livestock wealth come from auction rolls, they could be biased causing us to underestimate this relationship. However, all models were found to be robust to the inclusion of either the real or nominal value of livestock and we therefore choose to present only nominal values going forward.

80 Wang, Weiren and Famoye, Felix, “Modeling Household Fertility Decisions with Generalized Poisson Regression”, Journal of Population Economics, 10:3 (1997), pp. 273–283, 284.

81 Nicholas J Cox. “Stata: Creating Variables That Are ‘Plurality’ Measures”, available at: https://www.stata.com/support/faqs/data-management/plurality/measures/; last accessed 31 May 2018.

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International Review of Social History
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