Advanced

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

Green, Erik LU and Cilliers, Jeanne LU (2018) In International Review of Social History 63(2). p.239-271
Abstract
Traditional frontier literature identifies a positive correlation between land availability and fertility. A common explanation is that the demand for children as labour is higher in newly established frontier regions compared to older and 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 1800-28. 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... (More)
Traditional frontier literature identifies a positive correlation between land availability and fertility. A common explanation is that the demand for children as labour is higher in newly established frontier regions compared to older and 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 1800-28. 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. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
International Review of Social History
volume
63
issue
2
pages
239 - 271
publisher
Cambridge University Press
external identifiers
  • scopus:85052063012
ISSN
1469-512X
DOI
10.1017/S0020859018000317
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
c374e260-ee6a-4a34-b48b-9943557c8c1e
date added to LUP
2018-04-19 11:40:40
date last changed
2019-01-06 13:51:53
@article{c374e260-ee6a-4a34-b48b-9943557c8c1e,
  abstract     = {Traditional frontier literature identifies a positive correlation between land availability and fertility. A common explanation is that the demand for children as labour is higher in newly established frontier regions compared to older and 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 1800-28. 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.},
  author       = {Green, Erik and Cilliers, Jeanne},
  issn         = {1469-512X},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {239--271},
  publisher    = {Cambridge University Press},
  series       = {International Review of Social History},
  title        = {The Land-Labour Hypothesis in a Settler Economy : Wealth, Labour and Household Composition on the South African Frontier},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0020859018000317},
  volume       = {63},
  year         = {2018},
}