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The economics of slavery in eighteenth century Cape Colony: Revising the Nieboer-Domar hypothesis

Green, Erik LU (2014) In International Review of Social History 59(1). p.39-70
Abstract
The Nieboer-Domar hypothesis has proved to be a powerful tool for identifying the economic conditions under which slavery was more likely to emerge as a dominant form of labour. It states that in cases of land abundance and labour shortages the use of slavery was likely to become a vital alternative means of increasing production. These conditions have been identified for large parts of pre-colonial and semi-colonial Africa. The Nieboer-Domar hypothesis has been used by a number of historians and economic historians to analyse the role of slavery and bonded labour in Africa. The hypothesis is not, however, uncontested. Scholars have criticized it on both theoretical and empirical grounds. This article discusses the validity of the... (More)
The Nieboer-Domar hypothesis has proved to be a powerful tool for identifying the economic conditions under which slavery was more likely to emerge as a dominant form of labour. It states that in cases of land abundance and labour shortages the use of slavery was likely to become a vital alternative means of increasing production. These conditions have been identified for large parts of pre-colonial and semi-colonial Africa. The Nieboer-Domar hypothesis has been used by a number of historians and economic historians to analyse the role of slavery and bonded labour in Africa. The hypothesis is not, however, uncontested. Scholars have criticized it on both theoretical and empirical grounds. This article discusses the validity of the Nieboer-Domar hypothesis using the eighteenth-century Cape Colony as our point of departure. We show that the hypothesis holds in part, but also that it needs to be modified. First, slavery emerged as an urban phenomenon. Second, the use of slaves increased in parallel with other forms of labour, and the role of slaves can be understood only in relation to a wide range of existing labour contracts. Once established, slavery came to play a significant role in facilitating increased production on the settler farms in the eighteenth century. Capacity for surplus production was the key factor, but why slavery became a major form of labour was partly a consequence of its existence in the urban areas and partly of how it could be combined with other forms of labour. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Nieboer-Domar hypothesis, Cape Colony, Slavery, settler farming
in
International Review of Social History
volume
59
issue
1
pages
39 - 70
publisher
Cambridge University Press
external identifiers
  • wos:000333979400002
  • scopus:84898539431
ISSN
1469-512X
DOI
10.1017/S0020859013000667
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
f4a61723-f069-49c8-8701-0e2e0402903e (old id 4190045)
date added to LUP
2013-12-04 11:51:07
date last changed
2017-11-19 03:06:15
@article{f4a61723-f069-49c8-8701-0e2e0402903e,
  abstract     = {The Nieboer-Domar hypothesis has proved to be a powerful tool for identifying the economic conditions under which slavery was more likely to emerge as a dominant form of labour. It states that in cases of land abundance and labour shortages the use of slavery was likely to become a vital alternative means of increasing production. These conditions have been identified for large parts of pre-colonial and semi-colonial Africa. The Nieboer-Domar hypothesis has been used by a number of historians and economic historians to analyse the role of slavery and bonded labour in Africa. The hypothesis is not, however, uncontested. Scholars have criticized it on both theoretical and empirical grounds. This article discusses the validity of the Nieboer-Domar hypothesis using the eighteenth-century Cape Colony as our point of departure. We show that the hypothesis holds in part, but also that it needs to be modified. First, slavery emerged as an urban phenomenon. Second, the use of slaves increased in parallel with other forms of labour, and the role of slaves can be understood only in relation to a wide range of existing labour contracts. Once established, slavery came to play a significant role in facilitating increased production on the settler farms in the eighteenth century. Capacity for surplus production was the key factor, but why slavery became a major form of labour was partly a consequence of its existence in the urban areas and partly of how it could be combined with other forms of labour.},
  author       = {Green, Erik},
  issn         = {1469-512X},
  keyword      = {Nieboer-Domar hypothesis,Cape Colony,Slavery,settler farming},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {39--70},
  publisher    = {Cambridge University Press},
  series       = {International Review of Social History},
  title        = {The economics of slavery in eighteenth century Cape Colony: Revising the Nieboer-Domar hypothesis},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0020859013000667},
  volume       = {59},
  year         = {2014},
}