Professor Ewout Frankema (RHI) and Marlous van Waijenburg (Northwestern University, Chicago) have been awarded the Arthur H. Cole Prize for the best article in The Journal of Economic History (June 2012- June 2013) for their paper 'Structural Impediments to African Growth? New Evidence from Real Wages in British Africa, 1880-1965'.
The authors received the prize at the Economic History Association Annual Meeting in Washington (20-22 September). In June 2013, the same article was awarded the best publication award 2013 by the Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS).
The Cole Prize is awarded annually by the editorial board of the Journal of Economic History, this year for the first time jointly for two articles, the other article being Dan Bogart and Latika Chaudhary’s “Engines of Growth, the Productivity Advance of Indian Railways, 1874-1913.”
Ewout Frankema is professor and chair of the Rural and Environmental History Group and for one day a week affiliated to Utrecht University. The article plays a central role in his VIDI- and ERC research-projects on the historical development of living standards in pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial Africa. Marlous van Waijenburg graduated in Utrecht and received for her Master-thesis 'Living Standards in British Africa in a Comparative Perspective, 1880-1945. Is Poverty Destiny?' the Volkskrant-IISG Scriptieprijs and the thesis-price of the UU Humanities in 2010. She is currently working on her PhD-thesis about human capital formation in Africa at Northwestern University, Chicago.
Recent literature on the historical determinants of African poverty has emphasized structural impediments to African growth, such as adverse geographical conditions, weak institutions, or ethnic heterogeneity. But has African poverty been a persistent historical phenomenon? This article checks such assumptions against the historical record. We push African income estimates back in time by presenting urban unskilled real wages for nine British African colonies (1880–1965). We find that African real wages were well above subsistence level and that they rose significantly over time. Moreover, in West Africa and Mauritius real wage levels were considerably higher than those in Asia.