The Data Revolution in African Economic History

Working paper 555
Johan Fourie
Publication date: 
October, 2015
Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Big Data can be consequential for the field of history. The surge in computing power and access to data processing software and online resources have enabled historians over the past two decades to capture historical statistics on a much larger scale than before. Here I argue that the data revolution is especially valuable when applied to regions where written records are fairly scarce, such as sub-Saharan Africa. The tools of data transcription, augmentation, and collaboration have revealed much we did not know about the African past and its echoes in the present. The continuing projects to transcribe and digitize large numbers of colonial and post-colonial records are likely to teach us much more about Africa’s economic past over the coming decade.


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