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The challenge of studying inflation in pre-colonial Africa

Journal article
Authors Klas Rönnbäck
Published in History in Africa - A Journal of Method
ISSN 0361-5413
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Economic History
Department of Economy and Society
Language en
Links https://doi.org/10.1017/hia.2017.12
Keywords Inflation Markets Africa Pre-colonial
Subject categories Economic History


This paper studies the issue of inflation in pre-colonial West Africa. In a recent publication, it was argued that there was substantial inflation in West Africa already in the seventeenth century. In this paper, data from the Gold Coast is reported, in order to show that the prices of slaves, used in recent previous research for analyzing inflation, is a bad proxy for the prices of other traded commodities. Contrasting the case of the Gold Coast to that of Dahomey, it is furthermore shown that different societies in West Africa experienced different trends around the same period of time, cautioning against generalizations about broader regions.

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