The Commercial Transition and the Commodity Price Boom of 1845-1885

ABSTRACT: This is the first study to present a unified quantitative account of African commodity trade in the long 19th century from the zenith of the Atlantic slave trade (1790s) to the eve of World War II (1939). Drawing evidence from a new dataset on export and import prices, volumes, composition and net barter terms of trade for five African regions, we show that Sub-Saharan Africa experienced a terms of trade boom that was comparable to other parts of the ‘global periphery’ from the late 18th century up to the mid-1880s, with an exceptionally sharp price boom in the four decades before the Berlin conference (1845-1885). We argue that this commodity price boom changed the economic context in favor of a European scramble for Africa. We also show that the accelerated export growth after the establishment of colonial rule deepened Africa’s specialization in primary commodities, even though the terms of trade turned into a prolonged decline after 1885.

AUTHORS: Ewout Frankema, Jeffrey Williamson, Pieter Woltjer

» DOWNLOAD FULL PAPER «

Data

The African Commodity Trade Database underlying this paper is split into two distinct parts: (1) the full database, containing prices (P) and quantities (Q) for over 50 different African commodities traded with the United Kingdom and France between 1825 and 1939; (2) the Terms of Trade (ToT) for West, East and South Africa from 1808 to 1939, in addition to continuous average price series for the 14 main export commodities from West Africa.

file variables countries years # obs.
icn_excel ACTD_database_v01 P, Q WA, EA, SA 1825-1939 9,276
icn_excel ACTD_terms_of_trade_wa ToT, P WA, EA, SA 1808-1939 2,290

IMPORTANT: the data underlying ‘An Economic Rationale for the African Scramble‘ are freely available as long as the article is cited appropriately (see below).

Sources

Sources are listed for each cell in the complete database. A separate tab in this Excel file explains the codes used to identify sources and page numbers as well as provides a full source description.

Future Updates
  • Prices and quantities African commodities, 1730-1808
  • Coastal prices African commodities French colonies, 1885-1939

Download

Available at: The National Bureau of Economic Research
Journal: NBER Working Paper Series, No. 21,213
DOI: 10.3386/w21213
Get PDF: “An Economic Rationale for the African Scramble”

Cite

MLA Frankema, Ewout, Jeffrey Williamson, and Pieter Woltjer. An economic rationale for the african scramble: The commercial transition and the commodity price boom of 1845-1885. No. w21213. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2015.
APA Frankema, E., Williamson, J., & Woltjer, P. (2015). An economic rationale for the african scramble: The commercial transition and the commodity price boom of 1845-1885 (No. w21213). National Bureau of Economic Research.
Chicago Frankema, Ewout, Jeffrey Williamson, and Pieter Woltjer. An economic rationale for the african scramble: The commercial transition and the commodity price boom of 1845-1885. No. w21213. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2015.
Harvard Frankema, E., Williamson, J. and Woltjer, P., 2015. An economic rationale for the african scramble: The commercial transition and the commodity price boom of 1845-1885 (No. w21213). National Bureau of Economic Research.
Vancouver Frankema E, Williamson J, Woltjer P. An economic rationale for the african scramble: The commercial transition and the commodity price boom of 1845-1885. National Bureau of Economic Research; 2015 May 28.

» CAN’T GET ACCESS? CONTACT AUTHOR FOR A COPY «

Advertisements