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It rained on the first day of December in 1838. This was a day to remember. Across the Cape Colony the yoke of forced labour had been lifted from the almost 40,000 inhabitants who had formerly been classified as slaves. They were now free.
It had been a long road to freedom. When the Dutch first settled the Cape in the mid-seventeenth century the Atlantic slave trade was expanding. As we discussed in Chapter 11, hundreds of thousands of Africans were being shipped across the Atlantic by Portuguese, British, French and Dutch traders and sold to settlers in the New World. Because of the profitability of the trade, the rivalry between these slave-trading nations was intense. It would be this rivalry that would bring the first shipment of Angolan slaves to the Cape.
In March 1887 Robert Germond, a missionary in charge of a small mission station at Thabana Morena on the western border of present-day Lesotho, reported sad news. Basutoland, he wrote, ‘produces less and finds no outlet for its products. Its normal markets, Kimberley and the Free State, purchase Australian and colonial wheat … Basutoland, we must admit, is a poor country … Last year’s abundant harvest has found no outlet for, since the building of the railway, colonial and foreign wheat have competed disastrously with the local produce.’1
Thabana Morena is about 330 kilometres from Kimberley. Then part of the British protectorate of Basutoland, the region was the breadbasket of the South African interior. Basotho farmers produced grain for the rapidly growing local markets of Griqualand West, a division of the Cape Colony whose major town was Kimberley, and the Orange Free State, one of the two Boer republics set up in the 1850s after the Great Trek.
Just before the start of the First World War, Robert Millikan, professor of physics at the University of Chicago and a specialist in electron theory, travelled to Germany to present an academic paper. A few years earlier, in 1905, the scientist Albert Einstein had proposed a linear relationship between the wavelength of light and the maximum velocity of electrons emitted from irradiated metal. Einstein was developing quantum theory – and Millikan was adamant that he was wrong.
While visiting Dresden Millikan was introduced to a young researcher who had just completed his PhD. The young man was South African and could thus speak English – which is probably why he was asked to show Millikan around campus. They also shared a research interest, as the young researcher was also working on Einstein’s theory.
Questions about global poverty and inequality inspire some of the most contentious debates not only among academics but also among politicians and the public at large. This chapter assesses recent empirical trends on poverty and inequality, with a focus on human well-being. It argues that the past decade was one of unprecedented progress for some but stagnation and reversal for others and that there is a growing gap among developing countries as well as among all countries of the world. Although many economists agree that poverty is multidimensional, they continue to use the income poverty framework. Because they argue that economic growth is the primary means to reduce poverty and that there is strong correlation between income poverty and non-income human deprivations. The trends documented in the chapter make it apparent that many countries and groups within countries were marginalized from the global economy during the globalization of the 1990s.
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