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The significance of the Cape trade route to economic activity in the Cape colony: a medium-term business cycle analysis

By Willem H Boshoff and Johan Fourie


Trade is a critical component of economic growth in newly settled societies. This paper tests the impact of ship traffic on the Cape economy using a time series smoothing technique borrowed from the business cycle literature and employing an econometric procedure to test for long-run relationships. The results suggest a strong systematic co-movement between wheat production and ship traffic, with less evidence for wine production and stock herding activities. While ship traffic created demand for wheat exports, the size of the co-movement provides evidence that ship traffic also stimulated local demand through secondary and tertiary sector activities, supporting the hypothesis that ship traffic acted as a catalyst for growth in the Cape economy.Colonial trade, Cape of Good Hope, Dutch East India, Band-pass filter, Medium-term fluctuations, Business cycle, South Africa, Ships, Harvest cycles, Colonial economy

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