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September 12, 2007

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random african

One area I would like to be explored is the population/land ratio in Africa and how it both affected devellopement and was affected by it.

Relevant to your post here though are:

- the most develloped states being the most affected. Well, what if those States were the most develloped because of slavery/feudalism to begin with ? Land being available, the ability to capture labor through conquest and to retain it through military, civilian and religious institutions gives you an edge, or a bigger production. But of course, when richer and militarily superior foreigners comes, you'd be the most affected as you already have the institutions that help that particular trade (better military to raid, religious institutions in the case of the Aro Confederacy, an ease to deshumanize other groups etc..).

- The slave trade also affected the Population/Land ratio in obvious ways. The deported people weren't there anymore to farm, wars killed too and disrupted the economy, ethnic tensions disrupted trade and the economy, so did de-sendentarization. In turn the population/land ratio got worse, which reduced productivity.

I still have to finish the paper though.

corvad

why exactly is this a surprising answer?

fyi, Walter Rodney's "How Europe underdeveloped Africa" (1973)

is located at this url: http://www.blackherbals.com/walter_rodney.pdf

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Kerim Can

Perhaps slave traders kidnapped and sent away the best members of those societies. If the attributes sought in a slave are correlated with attributes that makes a person valuable to his society, extensive slave exporting may have impoverished those countries' human resource.

Hafiz

Through it might seem obvious, I never thought slave trade as forced migration. It puts the issue in a whole new perspective.

Rupert

This is great - some robust data to support a view that people suspected all along but couldn't prove!

It makes me wonder if the current 'brain drain' of African professionals to Europe and America could have similarly damaging effects on growth and institution building? After all, it is often the most highly skilled people who leave, just as the slaves were typically young, able-bodied men.

Lant Pritchett (http://www.cgdev.org/content/publications/detail/10174) would probably argue the reverse: migrants help develop their countries through remittances and possibly by going back in the future. Certainly in Liberia, where I have been working, the trickle of educated people returning from the USA is a big boost to the country's reconstruction. Losing your best people isn't so bad if they return!

Andrew L. B.

I read a working paper of this in early 2006 and, notwithstanding the seemingly solid empirics, I found it quite difficult to believe that the effects of slavery-generated institutions could persist for as long as Nunn was asking to believe. However, after reading that "King Leopold's Ghost" a few months later, I found Nunn's argument a lot easier to buy into. There are numerous anectdotes in the book which well serve to illustrate how slavery could well create the transformative and persistent effects that Nunn's work attributes to it. Thus, I recommend reading the book and the paper together.

"randomafrican": I believe Jeff Herbst looked quite extensively at population / land as a causal factor to explain African underdevelopment in his book, "States and Power in Africa". It's a bit of a frustrating book, though, and there is undoubtedly much work to be done in exploring the link further.

corvad

this discussion is enlightening in conjunction with Dani's recent posts, as it seems respondents will only be convinced by an argument if it is presented to them in quantified form. why do economists fetishize math? because they have been trained to only believe in a reality that is represented by numbers.

It's not just about taking the "best" people from Africa, by the way. it's about structuring institutions and societies in such a way that "independence" doesn't mean what it's supposed to, it's about arming and supporting leaders who support European policies, even to the extent of repressing their "own" people, it's about drawing borders on a continent which make no sense whatsoever to their historical social, cultural, and economic contexts, it's about imposing a territorial organization upon populations that affects where they can go and how they can utilize resources, it's about rewarding the most individualistic and selfish actions, the worst impulses (the ones that match those of profiteers and colonialists) and it's about continuously thinking that all of this is being done in the name of progress and civilizing "backwards" people, usually accompanied by a look we have the numbers to prove it.

if I am encouraged by anything it is the evidence that telling a well-known story with numbers means people with power and privilege might begin to listen. too bad they weren't paying attention before.

random african

Rupert: Did you just mention Liberia while commenting on a paper on the transatlantic slave trade and right before saying " Losing your best people isn't so bad if they return!" ?
I mean, yeah, they return with new skills but also with a newly acquired culture, consumption pattern and no sense of unity with the "locals".

Andrew L.B.: I think often people fail to realize that Colonization which followed Slavery by 50 years in many places was equally ravaging as far as setting economic and institutional patterns. And Congo/Kongo was badly hit.

On the paper: Choosing countries for the data can be attacked, even if there are reasons for doing so. For instance the slavery numbers for Congo/DRC/Gabon could be wrong. DRC being bigger and raided from the East as well as the West, its number of enslaved people would be bigger. However, on the Western side, Loango and Kongo operated across modern borders, so i'd need to read more about the sources. And then, Gabon's relative modern prosperity is really as simple as "lots of oil for few people". So i don't know.
I loved the "french colonization correction" in one of the graphs.

ad

Slaves were Africa biggest export by far during that period. So you would expect the biggest slave exporters to be the most developed areas. And of course, they would face the biggest problems when their export trade was banned. What do you think would happen to Saudi Arabia if the oil price dropped to zero?

random african

No, ad.

The biggest slave importers were the most develloped areas BEFORE the slave trade.
And most of them faced their biggest problems DURING the slave trade, not after.

Lawrence

It's an old debate, not much illuminated by the purple exggerations of people like Walter Rodney. But is it actually correct to state that West Africa or Mozambique were the most developed parts of the continent just prior to colonization and during the slave-trading era? They were not. The most developed African state was Eithiopia, from which no slaves were taken by Europeans whatsover. Nor did Europeans draw its ancient borders, which have been determined byh warfare. What is the poorest coountry in Africa today? Eithiopia.

As the contrasting economic
fates of Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire post 1960 amply show, poverty and success are the result mostly of contemporary policies, not slavery. Read Martin Meredith, not Rodney's easy victimology.

Lawrence

It's an old debate, not much illuminated by the purple exggerations of people like Walter Rodney. But is it actually correct to state that West Africa or Mozambique were the most developed parts of the continent just prior to colonization and during the slave-trading era? They were not. The most developed African state was Eithiopia, from which no slaves were taken by Europeans whatsover. Nor did Europeans draw its ancient borders, which have been determined byh warfare. What is the poorest coountry in Africa today? Eithiopia.

As the contrasting economic
fates of Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire post 1960 amply show, poverty and success are the result mostly of contemporary policies, not slavery. Read Martin Meredith, not Rodney's easy victimology.

Lawrence

It's an old debate, not much illuminated by the purple exggerations of people like Walter Rodney. But is it actually correct to state that West Africa or Mozambique were the most developed parts of the continent just prior to colonization and during the slave-trading era? They were not. The most developed African state was Eithiopia, from which no slaves were taken by Europeans whatsover. Nor did Europeans draw its ancient borders, which have been determined byh warfare. What is the poorest coountry in Africa today? Eithiopia.

As the contrasting economic
fates of Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire post 1960 amply show, poverty and success are the result mostly of contemporary policies, not slavery. Read Martin Meredith, not Rodney's easy victimology.

Hugo

So the parts of Africa from where the VAST majority of slaves for the Western Hemisphere were taken -- what's now Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Nigeria...are the LEAST developed and POOREST in Africa today????

FatsDurston

Lawrence: Yeah, it's an old debate, but:

"The most developed African state was Eithiopia, from which no slaves were taken by Europeans whatsover."

You might want to look into your Eurocentrism here. Non-Europeans drew slaves from Ethiopia. (And, yeah, Rodney's guilty of Eurocentrism, too.)

"...poverty and success are the result mostly of contemporary policies..."

You mean IMF, World Bank, proxy-warring, etc.?

random african

Hugo: It's a popular misconception that the coast from Ghana to Nigeria was the part where most slaves were taken from.
First of all, it's a misconception to think slaves were FROM the coast.
But then there's a West Africa centric view, partly influenced by the fact that there are anglophone countries in West Africa, partly by other factors, that underestimates the extend of operations in central africa.
As a matter of fact, as far as atlantic trade, the coast from Gabon to Angola exported slightly more slaves than the one in Western Africa. The third center being the Biafra Bright (down to equatorial guinea). I let you decide it where it belongs.

This is also of course, euro centric as nobody thinks of what happened on the East Coast and the Sahara.

And Lawrence, read the paper. No one states that "west africa" or Zimbabwe were the most develloped part just prior the slave trade. There are lots of particular cases and what is interesting is that develloped places were more affected than their neighbourgs AND fared worst than their less develloped neighbourgs.
I'm not sure I would call Ethiopia the poorest country in Africa either. By what criteria ? Or is it like some 1980's reflex that makes you think that Liberia, DRC or Mauritania are doiing better ?

James Hanley

the article is really good in terms of civil liberties and slave trade but at the core of the issue is eitherSlave trade or Canada immigration and USA and Canada visas. Illegal workers should be stopped at the Philippines. a good article can be seen at www.jobandvisa.com

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