Johan Fourie's blog

I'd rather be a comma than a fullstop


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My research is aimed at investigating the long-run, structural changes in societies and the factors that cause growth. I believe that we cannot address South Africa’s current dilemmas without understanding the context which created them, in other words, without a sound understanding of the incentives and institutions that shape our collective past. Only then can we identify and introduce policies that will allow future South Africans to prosper.

Graduating in Utrecht: My two paranimfs - Auke Rijksma (middle) and Christiaan van Bochove (right) - and me discussing serious matters after my defence.

Graduating in Utrecht: Auke Rijksma (middle), Christiaan van Bochove (right) and me.

I began to address these issues in my PhD dissertation in which I investigated the nature, causes and distribution of wealth of the early Cape Colony society. Under the supervision of Jan Luiten van Zanden at Utrecht University and Stan du Plessis at Stellenbosch University, I showed that the Cape was more prosperous than historians had previously thought and that inequality (within the settler community) was higher. I also explored the causes for and consequences of this larger affluence and more severe inequality.

Since then I have continued my interest in South African economic history, shifting focus towards the more recent periods: the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Because of our fractured past, I hope to nurture a new generation of economic historians who will use the tools of economic analysis combined with our rich historical sources to analyse and, perhaps, recast South Africa’s economic past.

LEAP_logo_US_2To do this, I help organise conferences on economic history topics around the country. I also serve on several committees to promote economic history research: I am coordinator of the Laboratory for the Economics of Africa’s Past (LEAP) at the Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University; as an Economic Research Southern Africa (ERSA) affiliate, I am responsible for organising Economic History Workshops; I serve on the Economic History Society of Southern Africa (EHSSA) council (until 2013 as vice-president) and, from the beginning of 2014, as co-editor of the Society’s journal, Economic History of Developing Regions.

Although South Africa may have an unusual history, it is not unconnected from the rest of Africa. That is why I’m also excited about the rejuvenation of African economic history. I’m a founding member of the African Economic History Network and was part of the organising committee that hosted the first World Economic History Congress held in Africa in 2012.

Selected publications:

  • Herranz-Loncan, A. and Fourie, J. 2017. “For the public benefit?” Railways in the British Cape Colony. European Review of Economic Histotry. In press.
  • Swanepoel, C. and Fourie, J. 2017. ‘Impending ruin’ or ‘remarkable wealth’? The role of private credit markets in the eighteenth-century Cape Colony. Journal of Southern African Studies. In press.
  • Fourie, J. The data revolution in African economic history. Journal of Interdisciplinary History. XLVII:2 (Autumn, 2016), 193–212. [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. and Swanepoel, C. 2015. When selection trumps persistence: The lasting effect of missionary education in South Africa. Tijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis. Vol 12(1): 1-29. [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. and Green, E. 2015. The Missing People: Accounting for the productivity of indigenous populations in Cape Colonial History. Journal of African History. 56(2): 195-215. [Repec] [Journal]
  • Baten, J. and Fourie, J. 2015. Numeracy of Africans, Asians, and Europeans during the Early Modern Period: New Evidence from Cape Colony Court Registers. Economic History Review. 68(2): 632-656. [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. and Von Fintel, D. 2014. Settler skills and colonial development: the Huguenot wine-makers in eighteenth-century Dutch South Africa. Economic History Review. 67(4): 932–963. [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. 2014. The Quantitative Cape: a review of the new historiography of the Dutch Cape Colony. South African Historical Journal. 66(1): 142-168. [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. and Van Zanden, J.-L. 2013. GDP in the Dutch Cape Colony: the national accounts of a slave-based society. South African Journal of Economics. 81(4): 467-490. [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. 2013. The remarkable wealth of the Dutch Cape Colony: measurements from eighteenth-century probate inventories. Economic History Review. 66(2): 419-448. [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. and Santana-Gallego, M. 2013. Ethnic reunion and cultural affinity. Tourism Management. 36, 411-420.  [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. 2013. Slaves as capital investment in the Dutch Cape Colony, 1652-1795. Chapter in: Svensson, P. & Hillbom, E. (Eds.) Agricultural transformation in global history perspective. Routledge.  [Repec]
  • Cilliers, J. and Fourie, J. 2012. New estimates of settler life span and other demographic estimates from South Africa, 1652-1948. Economic History of Developing Regions 27(2): 61-86.  [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. and Schirmer, S. 2012. The Future of South African Economic History. Economic History of Developing Regions 27(1): 114-124.  [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. and Von Fintel, J. 2011. A History with Evidence: Income inequality in Dutch South Africa. Economic History of Developing Regions 26(1): 16-48  [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. and Santana-Gallego, M. 2011. The impact of mega-events on tourist arrivals. Tourism Management 32(6): 1364-1370.  [Repec] [Journal]
  • Boshoff, W. and Fourie, J. 2010. The significance of the Cape trade route to economic activity in the Cape Colony: a Medium-term business cycle analysis. European Review of Economic History 14(3): 469-503.  [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. and Von Fintel, D. 2010. The dynamics of inequality in a newly settled, pre-industrial society. Cliometrica 4(3): 229-267.  [Repec] [Journal]

Written by Johan Fourie

November 19, 2013 at 00:02

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