Because information about the livelihoods of indigenous groups in Africa is often missing from colonial records, the presence of such people usually escapes attention in quantitative estimates of colonial economic activity. This is nowhere more apparent than in the eighteenth-century Dutch Cape Colony, where the role of the Khoesan in Cape production, despite being frequently acknowledged, has been almost completely ignored in quantitative investigations. Combining household-level settler data with anecdotal accounts of Khoesan labour, this article presents new estimates of the Khoesan population of the Cape Colony. Our results show that the Khoesan did not leave the area as a consequence of settler expansion. On the contrary, the number of Khoesan employed by the settlers increased over time, as the growth of settler farming followed a pattern of primitive accumulation and drove the Khoesan to abandon their pastoral lifestyle to become farm labourers. We show that, in failing to include the Khoesan population, previous estimates have overestimated slave productivity, social inequality, and the level of gross domestic product in the Cape Colony.
We thank Anton Ehlers, Di Kilpert, Robert Ross, Jan Luiten van Zanden, Dieter von Fintel, Nigel Worden, seminar participants at Stellenbosch University and Lund University, the staff of the Cape Town Archives Repository, and four anonymous referees of this journal for helpful suggestions on earlier versions of this article. We are grateful to Economic Research Southern Africa (ERSA) for financial support and for publishing an earlier version of this article as Working Paper No. 425, and for a research grant from the Southern African-Nordic Centre (SANORD). Authors' email:
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7 du Plessis, S. and du Plessis, S., ‘Happy in the service of the Company: the purchasing power of VOC salaries at the Cape in the 18th century’, Economic History of Developing Regions, 27:1 (2012), 125–49; Fourie, J., ‘The remarkable wealth of the Dutch Cape Colony: measurements from eighteenth-century probate inventories’, Economic History Review, 66:2 (2013), 419–48; Fourie, J. and von Fintel, D., ‘The dynamics of inequality in a newly settled, pre-industrial society’, Cliometrica, 4:3 (2010), 229–67.
8 Baten, J. and Blum, M., ‘Growing tall but unequal: new findings and new background evidence on anthropometric welfare in 156 countries, 1810–1989’, Economic History of Developing Regions, 27:S1 (2012), S66–85; Steckel, R., ‘Stature and the standard of living’, Journal of Economic Literature, 33:4 (1995), 1903–40.
9 Doyle, S., ‘Population decline and delayed recovery in Bunyoro, 1860–1960’, The Journal of African History, 41:3 (2000), 429–58.
10 Meier zu Selhausen, F., ‘Missionaries and female empowerment in colonial Uganda: new evidence from Protestant marriage registers, 1880–1945’, Economic History of Developing Regions, 29:1 (2014), 1–39.
11 Moradi, ‘Towards an objective account’; H. Bodenhorn, T. Guinnane, and T. Mroz, ‘Problems of sample-selection bias in the historical heights literature: a theoretical and econometric analysis' (working paper No. 1023, Yale University, 2013). The latter authors offer an example of how selectivity may prevent a sample from being representative of a population: if non-army incomes rise faster for taller individuals, individuals' decisions about whether to join the army can create an illusory puzzle of declining army heights despite rising incomes even though there has been no decline in the heights of the population.
12 See, for example, Dell, M., ‘The persistent effects of Peru's mining mita’, Econometrica, 78:6 (2010), 1863–903; Bruhn, M. and Gallego, F. A., ‘Good, bad, and ugly colonial activities: do they matter for economic development?’, Review of Economics and Statistics, 94:2 (2012), 433–61.
13 The title of the popular transdisciplinary book by Jared Diamond (New York, 1997). See Wolf, E., Europe and the People without History (Berkeley, 1982), 58ff.
14 Acemoglu, D., Johnson, S., and Robinson, J., ‘The colonial origins of comparative development: an empirical investigation’, American Economic Review, 91:5 (2001), 1369–401.
15 Fourie, J., ‘The quantitative Cape: a review of the new historiography of the Dutch Cape Colony’, South African Historical Journal, 66:1 (2014), 142–68, provides a comprehensive overview of this early literature.
16 A comprehensive discussion can be found in Elphick, R., Kraal and Castle: Khoikhoi and the Founding of White South Africa (New Haven, 1977).
17 Marks, S., ‘Khoisan resistance to the Dutch in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries’, The Journal of African History, 13:1 (1972), 55–80.
18 Fourie, J. and von Fintel, D., ‘Settler skills and colonial development: the Huguenot wine-makers in eighteenth-century Dutch South Africa’, Economic History Review, 67:4 (2014), 932–963.
19 Shell, R., Children of Bondage: A Social History of the Slave Society at the Cape of Good Hope, 1652–1838 (Hanover, 1994); Worden, N., Slavery in Dutch South Africa (Cambridge, UK, 1985).
20 Green, E., ‘The economics of slavery in the eighteenth-century Cape Colony: revising the Nieboer-Domar hypothesis’, International Review of Social History, 59:1 (2014), 39–70.
21 Armstrong, J. and Worden, N., ‘The slaves, 1652–1834’, in Elphick, R. and Giliomee, H. (eds.), The Shaping of South African Society, 1652–1840 (Middletown, Connecticut, 1988), pp. 109–83; Newton-King, S., Masters and Servants on the Cape Eastern Frontier, 1760–1803 (Cambridge, UK, 1999).
22 Worden, Slavery in Dutch South Africa, 82.
23 Penn, N., ‘Labour, land and livestock in the Western Cape during the eighteenth century: the Khoisan and the colonists’, in Wilmot, J. G. and Simons, M. (eds.), The Angry Divide: Social and Economic History of the Western Cape (Cape Town, 1989), 2–19.
24 Guelke, L. and Shell, R., ‘An early colonial landed gentry: land and wealth in the Cape Colony, 1682–1731’, Journal of Historical Geography, 9:3 (1983), 265–86.
25 Elphick, R. and Malherbe, V. C., ‘The Khoisan to 1828’, in Elphick, R. and Giliomee, H. (eds.), The Shaping of South African Society, 1652–1840 (Cape Town, 1989), 17.
26 Shell, Children of Bondage, 27.
27 Worden, Slavery in Dutch South Africa, 33–6.
28 Ibid. 36.
29 Ibid. 35.
30 H. J. le Roux, ‘Die toestand, verspreiding en verbrokkeling van die Hottentotstamme in Suid-Afrika, 1652–1713’ (unpublished master's thesis, University of Stellenbosch, 1945); Elphick and Malherbe, ‘The Khoisan’; Nigel Penn, The Forgotten Frontier: Colonist and Khoisan on the Cape's Northern Frontier in the 18th Century (Lansdowne, Cape Town, 2005); Elphick, Kraal and Castle; Marks, ‘Khoisan resistance’.
31 Elphick, Kraal and Castle.
32 Ibid. 3–4. This is similar to estimates by earlier historians, notably Theal and Le Roux, of between 40,000 and 50,000 Khoesan; see McCall Theal, G., History of Africa South of the Zambesi: From the Settlement of the Portuguese at Sofala in September 1505 to the Conquest of the Cape Colony by the British in September 1795 (London, 1927), 126; Le Roux, ‘Die toestand’, 5.
33 L. Guelke, ‘The early European settlement of South Africa’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Toronto, 1974).
34 Fourie, J. and van Zanden, J. L., ‘GDP in the Dutch Cape Colony: the national accounts of a slave-based society’, South African Journal of Economics, 81:4 (2013), 467–90.
35 Heese, H., Reg en Onreg: Kaapse Regspraak in die Agtiende Eeu (Bellville, Cape Town, 1994); J. Baten and J. Fourie, ‘Numeracy of Africans, Asians and Europeans during the early modern period: evidence from Cape Colony court registers’, Economic History Review, in press.
36 Ross, R., ‘Smallpox and the Cape of Good Hope in the eighteenth century’, in Fyvie, C. and McMasters, D. (eds.), Africa Historical Demography, Volume I (Centre for African Studies, University of Edinburgh, 1977), 416–28. Since no data are available, Robert Ross derives his figure by combining an in-depth understanding of the epidemiology of smallpox with an empirically detailed analysis of its effect on white settlers and slaves.
37 A full description of the data is available in Fourie and von Fintel, ‘The dynamics of inequality’.
38 Viljoen, R., Jan Paerl, a Khoikhoi in Cape Colonial Society, 1761–1851 (Leiden, 2006), 39.
39 B. Liebenberg, ‘Die Kaapse Hottentotte (1795–1806)’ (unpublished Master's thesis, University of Stellenbosch, 1941), 104 (authors' translation).
40 Shell, Children of Bondage, 24.
41 Viljoen, Jan Paerl.
42 Een Generale Beschrijving van de Colonie de Kaap de Goede Hoop [A general description of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope], Part I, VC 104, Cape Town Archives Repository. Unfortunately the author's name is missing.
43 Worden, Slavery in Dutch South Africa, 35.
44 J294, J296, J298, J300, J302, J305, J306, J311, Cape Town Archives Repository.
45 Because new districts were promulgated after the arrival of British administration in 1806, the Stellenbosch district in the 1830s was much smaller than in the eighteenth century.
46 Green, ‘The economics of slavery’.
47 Worden, Slavery in Dutch South Africa, 66–7. One mud is approximately 1 hectolitre.
48 Ibid. 67.
49 Ibid. 65.
51 Ibid. 68.
52 Ibid. 67.
53 Ibid. 65–7.
55 Ibid. 67. One leaguer is approximately 582 litres.
57 Ibid. 83.
58 Green, ‘The economics of slavery’; J. Fourie, ‘Slaves as capital investment in the Dutch Cape Colony’, in Hillbom, E. and Svensson, P., Agricultural Transformation in a Global History Perspective (London, 2013), 136–59.
59 Barrow, J., Travels into the Interior of Southern Africa, Volumes I and II (2nd edn, Cadell, T. and Davies, W., London, 1806), Volume II, 92.
60 See, for example, Dooling, W., ‘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), 147–62.
61 Fourie and von Fintel, ‘The dynamics of inequality’; Fourie, J. and von Fintel, D., ‘A history with evidence: income inequality in the Dutch Cape Colony’, Economic History of Developing Regions, 26:1 (2011), 16–48.
62 Mentzel, O., A Geographical-Topographical Description of the Cape of Good Hope, Part II (reprint series 6, Cape Town, 2008); Guelke and Shell, ‘An early colonial landed gentry’.
63 Fourie and von Fintel, ‘A history with evidence’, 35.
64 Ibid. 22.
65 J. Fourie and D. von Fintel used several data sources, most of which are now freely available online. These include the tax censuses (opgaafrolle) discussed in ‘The dynamics’ and auction rolls discussed in ‘A history with evidence’.
66 The sources for slave incomes are discussed in Fourie and von Fintel, ‘A history with evidence’.
67 Van Duin and Ross, The Economy.
68 de Zwart, P., ‘Real wages at the Cape of Good Hope: a long-term perspective, 1652–1912’, Tijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis, 10:2 (2013), 28–58; du Plessis and du Plessis, ‘Happy in the service’.
69 Fourie, ‘The remarkable wealth’.
70 Fourie and van Zanden, ‘GDP in the Dutch Cape Colony’.
71 To keep our estimates as close as possible to those of the original, we add only the new Khoesan population estimates to the denominator (population size) and keep the numerator (output) constant.
72 Fourie, ‘The remarkable wealth’.
* We thank Anton Ehlers, Di Kilpert, Robert Ross, Jan Luiten van Zanden, Dieter von Fintel, Nigel Worden, seminar participants at Stellenbosch University and Lund University, the staff of the Cape Town Archives Repository, and four anonymous referees of this journal for helpful suggestions on earlier versions of this article. We are grateful to Economic Research Southern Africa (ERSA) for financial support and for publishing an earlier version of this article as Working Paper No. 425, and for a research grant from the Southern African-Nordic Centre (SANORD). Authors' email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Erik.Green@ekh.lu.se
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