Slave Prices, the African Slave Trade, and Productivity in Eighteenth-Century South Carolina: A Reassessment

TitleSlave Prices, the African Slave Trade, and Productivity in Eighteenth-Century South Carolina: A Reassessment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsEltis, D, Lewis, FD, Richardson, D
JournalThe Journal of Economic History
Volume66
Pagination1054
ISBN Number0022-0507
KeywordsComparative analysis, Estimates, Farming, Prices
Abstract

  In "Slave Prices and the South Carolina Economy, 1722-1809" (hereafter MRW), our focus here, they combine a slave price series, based largely on probate records, with a price series made up of the main export goods that slaves produced–indigo, cotton, and most importantly rice–to infer trends in average slave productivity. Both Lewis Gray and Coclanis report estimates of land yields increasing by 50 percent, and it appears output per worker was going up as well: "a good working hand on a rice plantation produced about 2,250 pounds of clean rice per year, the figure for the average hand had apparently grown to about 3,000-3,600 pounds yearly during the second half of the eighteenth century, with good hands capable of even more."