Department of Economic History

Lund University School of Economics and Management

The African Economic History Group

African economic history is a field of research that has been growing immensely the last decade. The department of economic history is playing an important part in these developments. Today, Lund University African Economic History research group is one of the largest of its kind in the world, with close to 20 people employed, covering different regions and time periods. The group collaborates with numerous Universities in Africa in both research and higher education. In addition to conducting high quality research, an important aim of the group is to continuously strengthen collaborations and exchange between researchers and students between Lund University and our partners in Africa.

Current projects

Longitudinal Inequality Trends in Africa

Despite an extensive debate since the writings of Kuznets in the 1950s we still lack ample answers to some fundamental questions – Why is income inequality so much higher in some countries than in others? What mechanisms drive inequality trends over the long run? Until recently research to answer these questions was primarily about mapping events in the developed North. While there is a growing focus on the developing South, the only region still missing in comprehensive longitudinal studies is Africa. This project is a unique and novel effort to conduct such a study as it is aimed at understanding the long-term inequality trends in Africa and thereby bring this region into the debate.

Duration: 2016-2020

Principle investigator: Ellen Hillbom

Funded by Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius Foundation and Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation.

The Cape of Good Hope Panel: Long-term studies of growth, inequality and labour coercion in the global south

There is a vast literature on the impact of European settler colonialism on economic development in the global south. We know far less about the mechanisms at play during the establishment and expansion of European settler societies overseas. The aim of this project is to provide a systematic temporal and spatial analyses of the formation of a settler colony, the Cape Colony. The project is constructing a unique annual panel data set (The Cape of Good Hope Panel) of a complete settler population over more than 150 years in a developing region, specifically the Cape Colony (c. 1665-1840). With help of the data we contribute to the global literature on settler colonialism by conducting quantitative analyses of growth, inequality and coercion.

Duration: 2016-2020

Principle investigator: Erik Green

Funded by Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg foundation and Handelsbanken’s research foundation, The South African Research Foundation.

Development or exploitation? Mapping settler agriculture in colonial Africa

This project uses historical records to provide a longitudinal and spatial analysis of the development trajectories of European settler farming in colonial Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The project ask three fundamental questions: i) Were the European settler farmers performing better than the African small-scale farmers? ii) To what extent did the European farmers depend on access to cheap African labour? iii) How important were coercive colonial policies for the survival of European farms?

Duration: 2015-2018

Principle investigator: Erik Green

Funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Africa’s population boom in historical perspective

According to some estimates, Africa’s population will quadruple within 50-85 years. However, these predictions are only based on current trends; there is limited knowledge about population trends before the 1950s. The goal of the research is to gain a better understanding of population trends in Africa before 1950, to better understand those countries' development in this early period and to allow for better predictions of future population growth.

Duration: 2016-2021

Principle investigator: Jutta Bolt

Funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundation (Wallenberg Academy Fellowship).

African States and Economic Development in the 20th Century: Capacity to Count and Collect

Do African States have the capacity for ‘Development’? In the contemporary literature African states are described either as incapable or uninterested in development, but these notions have not been fully historicized. This project will examine when, where and under what conditions states in sub-Saharan Africa were capable of nurturing development and when, where and under what conditions they were not. Specifically, this project will examine the role of economic and social development planning and policy implementation and evaluation in African states in a historical context by focusing on the key functions of states such as population census taking and tax collection. The study will focus on Sub-Saharan Africa from the period of colonization (c.1890) until current day.

Duration: 2018-2021

Principle investigator: Morten Jerven

Funded by the Development Research Program at Vetenskapsrådet.