I am a South African economic historian based at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, where I’m affiliated to both the Economics and History departments.

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.

Find me at:

Google Scholar


Department of Economics


Since 2015, I coordinate the Laboratory for the Economics of Africa’s Past (LEAP), dedicated to the quantitative study of African economic history. It brings together scholars and students interested in understanding and explaining the long-term economic development of Africa’s diverse societies.

The Biography of an Uncharted People is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded project aimed at transcribing and analysing large volumes of individual-level records of South Africans typically underrepresented in the archives and in history. The project, based within the History department at Stellenbosch University and funded from 2018 to 2022, also aims to equip the next generation of historians with the skills to benefit from the data revolution and the Digital Humanities.

The Cape of Good Hope Panel will be an annual longitudinal panel of the tax censuses of a complete settler population over more than 150 years. The panel will create a ‘laboratory’ where social scientists can identify the causal effects of exogenous demand, supply and institutional shocks on human behaviour, and help us to understand the persistence of wealth and inequality within families, and the capacity for society to change over the long run.


  • Fourie, J. and Garmon Jr, F., 2022. The settlers’ fortunes: Comparing tax censuses in the Cape Colony and early American republic. The Economic History Review. [Journal]
  • Martins, I., Cilliers, J. and Fourie, J., 2022. Legacies of loss: The health outcomes of slaveholder compensation in the British Cape Colony. Explorations in Economic History, p.101506. [Journal]
  • Fourie, J., Inwood, K. and Mariotti, M., 2022. Living standards in settler South Africa, 1865–1920. Economics & Human Biology47, p.101158. [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. and Jayes, J. 2021. Health inequality and the 1918 influenza in South Africa. World Development. 141, 105407. [Journal]
  • Ekama, K., Fourie, J., Heese, H. and Martin, L. 2021. When Cape slavery ended: Introducing a new slave emancipation dataset. Explorations in Economic History. 81, 101390. [Journal]
  • De Kadt, D., Fourie, J., Greyling, J., Murard, E. and Norling, J. 2021. Correlates and Consequences of the 1918 Influenza in South Africa. South African Journal of Economics. 89(2): 173-195. [Journal]
  • Von Fintel, D. and Fourie, J. 2019. The great divergence in South Africa: Population and wealth dynamics over two centuries. Journal of Comparative Economics. 47(4): 759-773. [Journal]
  • Mpeta, B., Fourie, J. and Inwood, K. 2018. Black living standards in South Africa before democracy: New evidence from heights. South African Journal of Science. 114.1-2: 1-8. [Repec] [Journal]
  • Cilliers, J., and Fourie, J. 2018. Occupational Mobility during South Africa’s Industrial Take‐Off. South African Journal of Economics. 86(1): 3-22. [Repec] [Journal]
  • Herranz-Loncan, A. and Fourie, J. 2018. “For the public benefit?” Railways in the British Cape Colony. European Review of Economic History. 22(1): 73-100. [Repec] [Journal]
  • Swanepoel, C. and Fourie, J. 2018. ‘Impending ruin’ or ‘remarkable wealth’? The role of private credit markets in the eighteenth-century Cape Colony. Journal of Southern African Studies.44(1): 7-25. [Repec] [Journal]
  • 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 Regions27(2): 61-86.  [Repec] [Journal]
  • Fourie, J. and Schirmer, S. 2012. The Future of South African Economic History. Economic History of Developing Regions27(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 Management32(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. Cliometrica4(3): 229-267.  [Repec] [Journal]