The AEHN provides a unique opportunity to strengthening African economic history by providing primary data sets. The data is free to use but the principal investigator(s) must be cited.
The African Commodity Trade Database (ACTD) aims to stimulate and deepen research on African and global economic history. The database provides export and import series at product level for more than two and a half centuries of African trade (1737-2010). The ACTD consists of three main parts which are continuously updated as we retrieve additional sources. Currently data for the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century is available below. The data from the ACTD is freely available as long as reference is made to: Frankema, Ewout, Jeffrey Williamson and Pieter Woltjer. “An Economic Rationale for the West African Scramble? The Commercial Transition and the Commodity Price Boom of 1835-1885.” The Journal of Economic History 78, no. 1 (2018): 231-267.
Part I – Quantities and official prices, 1737-1808: ACTD_1737t1808_volumes_v1_0
Part II – Prices, quantities and values, 1808-1939: ACTD_1808t1939_database_v1_3 [updated]
– Notes on the ACTD: ACTD_1808t1939_notes
– British Customs Records, 1697-1808, unprocessed: ACTD_1697t1808_raw_data
– Market prices African commodities, 1730-1808
– Coastal prices African commodities French colonies, 1885-1939
– Values and quantities African trade, 1945-2010
The data was collected by the Rural Environment History Group at Wageningen University. For comments and suggestions please send an email to Pieter Woltjer ([email protected]).
This file contains over 1800 notecards giving citations on colonial African economic history as collected up to 1972. The initial cards list the journals from which citations were transcribed, along with the time frame of documentation. The entries are color-coded by discipline, and the initial card identifies the color-coding. The cards themselves are created by Prof. Patrick Manning (University of Pittsburgh) and 5 history graduate students. The cards are not in any specific order, so one needs to scan through them on a pot-luck basis. That said, all cards in this large file can be freely copied and exchanged.
The Africa-Asia Occupational Wage Database (AAOWD) aims to deepen research on African and Asian economic history. The database provides long-term wage series of indigenous male urban workers in six occupations: labourers, carpenters, electricians, car mechanics, entry-level clerks and bank tellers. The wage series are available for 34 African countries and 16 Asian countries and can be used to construct and compare skill-premiums for the period 1870-2010. An extensive description of the sources, key features, and consistency of the data is provided in the appendix of the paper: Frankema, E., & Van Waijenburg, M. (2019). The Great Convergence. Skill Accumulation and Mass Education in Africa and Asia, 1870-2010. CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14150. Please cite this paper if you use (parts of) the AAOWD.
The collection Governing Africa of the British Online Archives contains primary source documents mostly derived from a series of annual reports and accounts sent to the British Government by its colonial administrations in Africa. The collections cover British colonial administrations that reigned during the 19th and 20th centuries, and include content on 13 former British African colonies. South Africa’s apartheid era is also covered extensively in the papers of journalist Colin Legum and materials from political parties.
This collection can be accessed via a 30-day free-trial or individual (week or month) user license.
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been absent from recent debates about comparative long-run growth owing to the lack of data on aggregate economic performance before 1950. Here we provide estimates of GDP per capita on an annual basis for eight Anglophone African economies for the period since 1885. The new data show that many of these economies had levels of per capita income which were above subsistence by the early twentieth century, on a par with the largest economies in Asia until the 1980s. However, overall improvements in GDP per capita were limited by episodes of negative growth or “shrinking”, the scale and scope of which can be measured through annual data. For more detail on how these estimates were calculated, see Stephen Broadberry and Leigh Gardner, “Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1885-2008: Evidence from eight countries,” Explorations in Economic History 83 (2022): 101424.
Annual Colonial reports for the following countries are made available online by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Other reports include Kenya, Northern Rhodesia, Bechuanaland, Nigeria, Basutoland, Swaziland.
Moradi, A. and S. Mylavarapu (2008). Men under Arms in Colonial Africa: East African Forces.
Leys, N. M. and T. A. Joyce (1913). Note on a Series of Physical Measurements from East Africa. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 43(1): 195-267
Source: Fourie, J. And Von Fintel, D. (2010) ‘The dynamics of inequality in a newly settled, pre-industrial society’, Cliometrica 4(3): 229-267
Source: Frankema, E. and Jerven, M. (2014). ‘Writing History Backwards and Sideways: Towards a Consensus on African Population, 1850-present‘ Economic History Review 67, S1, 907-931
Note: The population estimates in this dataset are best guesses based on backward projections 1950-1850 with country specific modifications. They do not represent actual population counts. For a description of the methods used to reach the annual population totals please see Frankema, E. and Jerven, M. (2014). ‘Writing History Backwards and Sideways: Towards a Consensus on African Population, 1850-present’ Economic History Review 67, S1, 907-931. The authors welcome comments and suggestions for improvements of the database.
Compared to versions 1.0 and 2.0, version 3.0 of the database uses the revised 2019 UN World Population Prospects data for the period 1950-2020 and new 1950 benchmarks for backward extrapolation 1950-1850. While this revision doesn’t alter the total African estimate for 1850 much, the new data can make a more siginifcant difference for several individual African countries.