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

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP14/2011
 
Publication date: 2011
 
Author(s):
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)
[protected email address] (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”.

 
JEL Classification:

N37, D31, D63

Keywords:

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

Download: PDF (1015 KB)

Login

(for staff & registered students)



Need a password?
Forgot your password?

Upcoming Seminars

No seminars are currently listed. Please check back soon.
 
More...

BER Weekly

27 September 2021
Besides the escalating woes at leading Chinese property group Evergrande, global and domestic financial markets were focused on a slew of central bank policy meetings last week. ...

Read the full issue
 

Upcoming Seminars

No seminars are currently listed. Please check back soon.
 
More...

BER Weekly

27 September 2021
Besides the escalating woes at leading Chinese property group Evergrande, global and domestic financial markets were focused on a slew of central bank policy meetings last week. ...

Read the full issue