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Why was the British crown unable to generate direct net revenue from its West Indian possessions during the early modern era, while a country such as Denmark was able to do just that? is paper undertakes a comparison between Great Britain and Denmark, which might yield important insights into what yielded revenue and drove the costs of colonialism. The British West Indian lobby, this paper proposes, was comparatively successful in shifting the burden of taxation to other areas, for example import tariffs, thus keeping direct taxation on colonial subjects low. In the Danish West Indies, direct taxation was on the other hand comparatively high. Danish neutrality during the period also contributed to reducing military costs for the state. The findings emphasize the importance of political power for the profitability of colonialism.

In: Journal of Early American History


This article revisits the scholarly debate on the profitability of historical slavery. The article examines the case of the antebellum US South, using slave hire rates as a proxy for the net rent on investments in slavery. It employs empirical data and a more advanced methodological approach to the issue than in previous research. The results suggest that the profitability of slavery was much higher than what most previous research has shown, around 14–15 per cent per year on average after adjusting for mortality risk, but that the return also fluctuated over time. It was on average more profitable for Southern capital owners to invest in slaves than investing in many alternatives such as financial instruments or manufacturing activities in the US South, as long as slavery remained a legal institution.

Open Access
In: Journal of Global Slavery

This article examines the economic incentives for Europeans to migrate to the so-called ‘white man’s grave’ of West Africa. Ignorance and coercion have been proposed as explanations for migration to high mortality areas. We use data on the Royal African Company and their European employees on the Gold Coast during the period 1707–1740. We found that the employees received a premium above the wage they would have received in England. Economic reasons might therefore have swayed the decision to migrate. Nevertheless, the wage premium was low in relation to the very high risk of dying. The migrating men either placed a low value on their own lives, or did not understand the risks they were facing.

In: Journal of Migration History