GDP in the Dutch Cape Colony: The national accounts of a slave-based society

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP04/2012
 
Publication date: 2012
 
Author(s):
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch, Utrecht University)
[protected email address] (University of Stellenbosch, Centre for Global Economic History, Utrecht University)
 
Abstract:

New estimates of GDP of the Dutch Cape Colony (1652-1795) suggest that the Cape was one of the most prosperous regions during the eighteenth century. This stands in sharp contrast to the perceived view that the Cape was an “economic and social backwater”, a slave economy with slow growth and little progress. Following a national accounts framework, we find that Cape settlers’ per capita income is similar to the most prosperous countries of the time – Holland and England. We trace the roots of this result, showing that it is partly explained by a highly skewed population structure and very low dependency ratio of slavery, and attempt to link the eighteenth century Cape Colony experience to twentieth century South African income levels.

 
JEL Classification:

N37

Keywords:

South Africa, Slave, Income, Growth, GDP Per Capita, Production

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1 March 2021
Even with the release of data showing a record high unemployment rate in 2020Q4, it turned out to be a fairly good week for the SA economy. Daily new COVID-19 infections remained well contained, while the second batch of 80 000 J&J vaccines arrived (albeit controversially with the grounded SAA being the carrier). In addition, relative to the October...

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