The spread of the joint stock company with its multiple shareholders, limited liability and professional managers ushered in a period of rapid growth, globalisation and innovation. By digitising, transcribing and curating the largest joint-stock archive in Africa, this project investigates the emergence of early capitalism at the Cape Colony and Southern Africa from 1862 onwards. The Cape was home to over 3000 limited liability companies operating in multiple sectors and geographies.
We have collected the largest dataset of these early companies at the Cape Colony, of which several survive today. The dataset provides a wealth of information about the formation of early companies, the shareholders that invested in them, articles of association, intellectual property, human capital formation and multinational globalisation during a period in which there was tremendous turbulence and change on many fronts. Linking probate, migration, tax and household records allows us to estimate the scale of capital ingenuity on the financial frontier of Southern Africa.
By bringing together economists, historians, sociologists, genealogists and geographers, the project will systematically explore the links between early capitalism, businesses and the broader context of economic change in Southern Africa.