Did it pay to be a pioneer? Wealth accumulation in a newly settled frontier society

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European settler colonies are often thought to have been characterized by a continued expansion of the landed frontier, which impacted the distribution of wealth across their settler populations. Hampered by a lack of data, few studies have been able to study this in-depth. How does settlement timing affect wealth and wealth accumulation when frontier expansion is not a smooth continuous process? Was it the case that pioneers reaped greater economic benefits from locating their farms on superior land, or would they be disadvantaged compared to later arrivals due to limited infrastructure or greater risk of conflict with indigenous populations? In this paper, we use a unique dataset that allows us to analyse the link between time of arrival and wealth accumulation in a colonial agrarian frontier society: the Graaff-Reinet district in South Africa’s Cape Colony between 1786-1850. We find that those who arrived early located their farms in the more climatologically suitable areas of the district and utilized their superior lands to accumulate wealth more quickly than latecomers. However, due to institutional changes that favoured later British arrivals we also show that the existence of an early arrival premium did not mean persistence in land ownership.
Sidor (från-till)257-282
Antal sidor26
TidskriftEconomic History Review
StatusPublished - 2023

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Ekonomisk historia


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