The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones

The Long-Term Effects of Africa’s Slave Trades by Nathan Nunn


Can part of Africa’s current underdevelopment be explained by its slave trades? To explore this question, I use data from shipping records and historical documents reporting slave ethnicities to construct estimates of the number of slaves exported from each country during Africa’s slave trades. I find a robust negative relationship between the number of slaves exported from a country and current economic performance. To better understand if the relationship is causal, I examine the historical evidence on selection into the slave trades, and use instrumental variables.

Together the evidence suggests that the slave trades have had an adverse effect on economic development.

The paper is available here.

I also think that slavery and the creepy society that grew up in the South of the US in the shadow of slavery continues to live after it even to this day. It morphed into the terrorist state of the reconstructionist South with its humilation and arbitrary lynchings to enforce its racism. And somehow the culture that grew up under slavery continues to pervert basic sanity in the South of the US and that this radiates out into the US more generally today. These days it’s not through lynchings or slavery, or even particularly strong racism. But intellectual infantilism of things like Christian fundamentalism continues to hold unusually strong sway.

But that is another topic on which I might try to post some time.

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Richard Green
Richard Green
16 years ago

I’ve always wondered what Australia would have been like had there been a cash crop, the like of cotton, in the early days of the NSW colony. Afterall, if there was, exports would cover the imports of food and the like, so the colony would no longer be subsidised by parliament.
Without this subsidy cost, there would be no onus to put Macquarie in to make the colony self sufficient, and the momentum in favour of emancipation and other activities that were ultimately more efficient would have been stalled.

And a system of forced labour based on convicts could have survived for a great deal longer. And I feel we would be poorer for it.

16 years ago

I don’t know how to do a ‘trackback’, but the link to my piece is here.