Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Göteborg Papers in Economic History,
University of Gothenburg, Department of Economic History

No 20: Mortality among European settlers in pre-colonial West Africa: The “White Man’s Grave” revisited

Stefan Öberg () and Klas Rönnbäck ()
Additional contact information
Stefan Öberg: Department of Economic History, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University, Postal: Box 720, SE 40530 Göteborg, Sweden
Klas Rönnbäck: Department of Economic History, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University, Postal: Box 720, SE 40530 Göteborg, Sweden

Abstract: We have created the first longitudinal dataset following European employees of the English Royal African Company during their time in West Africa, 1683–1766. The mortality was catastrophically high with limited geographical differences. Tropical diseases and epidemics thereof, contributed to the high mortality and strong variations over time. The risk was highest for the men who had just arrived from Europe but remained high also after they had spent several years on the coast. The death rate of the Europeans was increased by both the share of newcomers and by the total number of men present on the coast.

Keywords: Economic History; Mortality; West Africa; Pre-colonial; “White Man’s Grave”

JEL-codes: J10; N37

50 pages, November 22, 2016

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