The Cape of Good Hope Panel is a series of annual tax censuses (or opgaafrolle) collected by the colonial authorities in the seventeenth- to nineteenth-century Cape Colony. The censuses contain information not only about the complete settler population – by the end of the period, a total of more than 50 000 individuals – but also the enslaved and indigenous Khoesan population that lived and worked within the colonial economy.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (The establishment, growth and legacy of a settler colony: Quantitative panel studies of the political economy of Cape Colony – Dnr: M20-0041), the purpose of this project is to transcribe the full series of tax censuses, match households across censuses, match census households to other sources (like probate inventories and auction rolls) and match census households across generations (using genealogical records). This would allow us to investigate questions about the evolution of living standards and economic development, inequality and social mobility, networks and elite formation and slavery and labour coercion.

We aim to, ultimately, combine the wealth of data with innovative techniques to analyse and understand the economic development of this pre-industrial, colonial society.


Paper on wheat productivity published

Johan Fourie and Jan Greyling have published a paper that calculates wheat productivity in the Cape Colony in 1825. They can do so because of the full transcription of all tax censuses for that year. […]

Esté Kotzé joins Cape Panel project

Postdoctoral student Esté Kotzé joined the Cape Panel project at the start of 2023. Esté, whose position is funded through the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa’s research fund, will work on the early Cape […]

Two Master’s students join Cape Panel project

Tessa Hubble and Jan-Hendrik Pretorius joined the Cape Panel project in 2023. Both are Master’s students in Economics at Stellenbosch University. Tessa will use the MOOC 10-auction rolls to ascertain whether social class mattered in […]

Cape Panel team meets in Stellenbosch

The Cape Panel team met for the second time in person in Stellenbosch, South Africa on 3 and 4 November. The first day included research presentations by panel team members and invited lectures by Nigel […]

Anne McCants presents LEAP Lecture

MIT historian and Cape Panel member Anne McCants presented the 7th LEAP Lecture in Stellenbosch on 7 November. McCants asked a large audience, ‘What makes for good social science history?’, using GDP as a way […]


Erik Green

Department of Economic History, Lund University

Johan Fourie

Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University

Ann Carlos

Department of Economics, University of Colorado Boulder

Benjamin Chatterton

Department of Economic History, Lund University

Jeanne Cilliers

Department of Economic History, Lund University

Kate Ekama

Department of History, Stellenbosch University

Calumet Links

Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University

Igor Martin

Department of Economic History, Lund University

Anne McCants

Department of History, Massachusetts Institutes of Technology

Auke Rijpma

Department of History, Utrecht University

Robert Ross

Department of History, Leiden University

Jonathan Schoots

Department of Economic History, Lund University

Dieter von Fintel

Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University

Leoné Walters

School of Economics, University of Cape Town

Jan Greyling

Department of Agricultural Economics, Stellenbosch University

Karen Jennings

Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University

Karl Bergemann

Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University

Lauren Stevens

Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University

Lisa Martin

Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University



Harvard University


SOAS University of London


Northwestern University


UC Irvine


Oxford University

Jan Luiten
van Zanden

Utrecht University


The transcribed annual tax censuses (opgaafrolle) will be made available during the course of the project.

The metadata can be found here.


Fourie, J. and Greyling, J., 2023. Wheat productivity in the Cape Colony in 1825: evidence from newly transcribed tax censuses. Agrekon, 62(1), pp.98-115.

Raaijmakers, W. and Ekama, K. 2023. Advertising the enslaved for sale: A quantitative approach to the Zuid-Afrikaan, 1830-4. In: Quantitative History and Uncharted People: Case Studies from the South African Past (ed: Fourie, J.). Bloomsbury Publishing.

Fourie, J. and Garmon Jr, F., 2023. The settlers’ fortunes: Comparing tax censuses in the Cape Colony and early American republic. The Economic History Review, 76(2), pp.525-550.
Replication package

Cilliers, J., Green, E. and Ross, R., 2023. Did it pay to be a pioneer? Wealth accumulation in a newly settled frontier society. The Economic History Review, 76(1), pp.257-282.
Replication package

Cillliers, J and E. Green (2018) ‘The Land–Labour Hypothesis in a Settler Economy: Wealth, Labour and Household Composition on the South African Frontier’, International Review of Social History, 63(2): 239-271

Rijpma, A., Cilliers, J. and Fourie, J., 2020. Record linkage in the Cape of Good Hope Panel. Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, 53(2), pp.112-129.

Links, C., Fourie, J. and Green, E., 2020. The substitutability of slaves: Evidence from the eastern frontier of the Cape Colony. Economic History of Developing Regions, 35(2), pp.98-122.

Cilliers, J., Fourie, J. and Swanepoel, C., 2019. ‘Unobtrusively into the ranks of colonial society’: Intergenerational wealth mobility in the Cape Colony over the eighteenth century. Economic History of Developing Regions, 34(1), pp.48-71.

Cilliers, J. and Mariotti, M., 2019. The shaping of a settler fertility transition: eighteenth-and nineteenth-century South African demographic history reconsidered. European Review of Economic History, 23(4), pp.421-445.

Fourie, J. and Green, E., 2018. Building the Cape of Good Hope Panel. The History of the Family, 23(3), pp.493-502.

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), p.195.


PhD graduates

Karl Bergemann (Stellenbosch, 2024): The Runaways: A study of enslaved, apprenticed and indentured labour flight at the Cape in the emancipation era, 1830-42

Calumet Links (Stellenbosch, 2021): The Economic Impact of the Khoe on the North-Eastern Frontier of the Cape Colony

Igor Martins (Lund, 2020): Collateral Effect: Slavery and Wealth in the Cape Colony

Heinrich Nel (Stellenbosch, 2020): Wealth mobility, familial ties and migration: Evidence form the Cape of Good Hope Panel


Madeleine Jarl

Research secretary
Lund University


We are grateful to the following supporters, without which this project would not be possible:

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