Die huwelikspatrone van Europese setlaars aan die Kaap, 1652-1910.

28 July 2014

The Cape Colony at the southernmost tip of Africa, founded in 1652 with the arrival of European sailors and soldiers under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company, provides, we believe, an excellent opportunity to investigate the persistence of “European” demographic characteristics outside of North-Western Europe, given that it’s social and cultural institions originate from this region. In addition, the Cape has perhaps one of the most well documented settler populations in the world, and the wealth of quantitative archival evidence available allows for new demographic research at a micro level. This study makes use of one such quantitative source: the newly-digitised South African Genealogical Registers, a detailed account of all European settler families at the Cape, to provide new estimates of settler marriage patterns from European settlement to unification in 1910. Why is an understanding of marriage patterns important? A recent literature has emphasised the role of women’s agency in Europe as a key determinant of the rise of a market society and, ultimately, the Industrial Revolution (Diebolt and Perrin 2013; Voigtländer and Voth 2013). Women’s agency arose as a result of an increase in the age at which women married during the earlymodern era in Europe, also known as the European marriage pattern (EMP), which was, according to De Moor and Van Zanden (2010), caused by three related factors: 1) consensus in the marriage decision, 2) the Roman-Dutch inheritance laws which ensured that women were given an equal share in the estate of their deceased husbands, and 3) the rise of an active labour market which gave women between the ages of 12 and 25 the opportunity to earn wage income. These three factors, claim De Moor and Van Zanden (2010), explain a divide within Europe along an imaginary line, first observed by John Hajnal and therefore also known as the Hajnal line, running from St Petersburg in Russia to Trieste in Italy; those regions west of the line exhibited characteristics of the EMP, those east of the line did not. The consequences of a higher age of marriage was that the period during which women were fertile within the marriage shortened, resulting in lower fertility rates. A higher age of marriage also meant that both men and women gained additional time to earn an income and improve their skills before marriage. This rise in human capital, argue De Moor and Van Zanden (2010), was a key building block of the rise of a market society and, later, the eighteenth-century Industrial Revolution. The aim of this article, then, is to provide a series of eighteenth- and nineteenth century marriage pattern estimates for the Cape Colony that allow us to view Cape development in a comparative perspective and, perhaps more tentatively, test whether the same factors that De Moor and Van Zanden (2010) propose, are also true at the Cape. From both quantitative and qualitative sources we find no evidence that a European Marriage Pattern developed at the Cape, even though both consensus in marriage and inheritance laws were present. However, more quantitative evidence is necessary to confirm or refute the De Moor and Van Zanden (2010) hypothesis.