Separating property and housing market

September 24, 2012

In The Spectator, the ever-brilliant Rory Sutherland uses a 19th-century Barbados example to make an excellent economic point:

If the all-party Parliamentary Housing Sub-Committee were to embark on a week-long fact-finding tour of Barbados, it would create a tabloid scandal. Yet it might be a good idea all the same. For among the palm trees they will find remnants of a fascinating housing experiment which began almost 200 years ago, yet which affords a useful lesson for housing policy today.


Lovejoy P. and Richardson D. (2001) Pawnship in West Africa during the slave trade

July 7, 2009

Lovejoy, Paul E. and Richardson, David (2001) “The Business of Slaving: Pawnship in Western Africa, c.1600-1810”, The Journal of African History, 42/1, 67-89.

Picture 49Picture 51Picture 48

“The institution of pawnship, specially the use of people as collateral for credit, helped underpin the Atlantic slave trade” (p.68). Leaving people as collateral solve the trust issue attached to credit (p.69).

Several types of pawnships existed (p.70). Europeans often reported the habit for one to pawn himself if too poor to survive. People also often offered themselves as collateral for a credits and  if they failed to repay, they became slaves for debt (p.71). In domestic trade the use of pawns to guarantee a debt seem to have been fairly common in 18th-century West Africa. The institution seems to have been indigenous (p.72). Read the rest of this entry »

Austin G. (2009) Coercion and labour market in pre-colonial West Africa

May 19, 2009

Austin, Gareth (2009) “Coercion and markets: the political economy of slavery in West Africa, c.1450-1900”, paper presented for the Séminaire: Travail et conditions de vie en Afrique dans la longue durée, at the Paris School of Economics, 18/05/09.



The use of slave labour in pre-colonial Western Africa has often been attributed to the small human densities in the region. But this argument is in contradiction with the fact that slavery was relatively uncommon in the area before the development of the Atlantic slave trade. Indeed, it is the European demand for African bond labour that created the mechanisms that were subsequently used by the “domestic” slave trade. Those two markets were complementary, in particularly, the Atlantic slave trade concentrated on men while the domestic demand was centred on women. Read the rest of this entry »

North D.C. (1959) Agriculture and economic growth

March 20, 2009

North, Douglass C. (1959) “Agriculture and Regional Economic Growth”, Journal of Farm Economics, 41/5, 943-951.


“There seems to be agreement amongst economist that agriculture contributes little to economic growth”. Worse it may even delay development as agricultural comparative advantage may attract production factors away from the most moderns sectors of the economy. At best, progress in agriculture is seen as a consequence rather than a cause of urban and industrial development (p.943). But the author argues that “the successful production of agricultural (or indeed most extractive) commodities for sale [outside of] the region can be and under certain conditions has been the prime influence inducing economic growth […] and eventually industrial development”. Read the rest of this entry »

Eltis D. and Engerman S. L. (2000) British industrialization and the slave trade

June 8, 2008

Eltis David and Engerman Stanley L. (2000) “The importance of slavery and the slave trade to industrializing Britain”, Journal of economic history, 60, 123-144.

How important was the American slave system to the British economy of the second half of the 18th century? According to those involved in slaving ventures there was “hardly any Branch of Commerce in which this Nation is concerned that does not derive some advantage from it” (123). But this opinion was only put forward by parties had interest in overestimating the economic significance of the slave system at a time abolition was advocated by many. Read the rest of this entry »

Scheidel W. (2005) Economics of slavery in the Greco-Roman world

December 16, 2007

Scheidel Walter 2005 ‘The comparative economics of slavery in the Greco-Roman world’, Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics, Nov. ’05, 21p.

Large scale slavery occurs rarely in history, Ancient Greece and Italy are exceptions. Why? The slave population in Athens and Rome can be very roughly estimated at about a third of the total, a proportion consistent with the one of ante bellum Southern USA (2). Read the rest of this entry »