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 challenges without understanding their roots; in other words, without a sound understanding of the incentives and institutions that shape our collective past.
I began to investigate these roots in my PhD dissertation (Utrecht University, 2012), which studied 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 expanded my interests, shifting focus towards the more recent periods of South African economic history: 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, hopefully, rediscover the lessons we can draw from South Africa’s economic past.
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