The Laboratory for the Economics of Africa’s Past (LEAP) is dedicated to the quantitative study of African economic history. It brings together scholars and students interested in understanding and explaining the long-term economic development of Africa’s diverse societies. LEAP is affiliated to the Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

The Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University has a proud record of Economic History teaching and research.

Prof. Sampie Terreblanche, appointed Professor of Economic History in 1968, wrote several textbooks on the History of Economic Thought during his long tenure in the department. Since his retirement in 1995, his particular focus has been the economic history of South Africa and the world. Notable among his many publications are A History of Inequality in South Africa, 1652–2002 (UKZN Press, 2002) and Western Empires: Christianity, and the Inequalities between the West and the Rest (Penguin, 2014).

The global renaissance of African economic history since the early 2000s has spurred a new generation of Stellenbosch economists to carry on the work of Prof. Terreblanche. This initiative has been boldly led by Sophia du Plessis (vice-president of the Economic History Society of Southern Africa in 2008), who was instrumental in winning the bid to host the 2012 World Economic History Congress.

The Congress, held during a cold July in the picturesque town of Stellenbosch, attracted more than 800 international scholars and positioned Stellenbosch as one of the leading centres of economic history on the African continent.

Following the Congress, plans were made to formalise the Economic History group at Stellenbosch University, with the aim of expanding and improving quantitative African economic history research. Success depended on recruiting high-potential students and exposing them to the leading thinkers in African economic history and economic history more generally. Since 2013, four PhD students have registered and a graduate Economic History course is being taught annually. To build the essential collaborative networks across Europe, North America and Africa, the department has appointed five Research Associates and one Extraordinary Professor in Economic History, Jan Luiten van Zanden, Professor of Economic History at Utrecht University. The economic history cluster, consisting of staff and students interested in African economic history, has met weekly since 2014 for a brown-bag seminar. The cluster was formalised at the beginning of 2015 when LEAP was launched.

With these exciting developments going on, the future of African economic history research looks extremely promising.


Second issue, October 2018

Click here to read all about it!


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Since 2016, LEAP hosts an annual lecture series. Our first LEAP Lecture was presented by Marianne Wanamaker of the University of Tennessee. Our second LEAP Lecture was presented by Emmanuel Akyeampong of Harvard University. Watch their lectures below.


Staff, Research Affiliates, Visitors & Friends, Students

Sophia du Plessis

Faculty (Economics)

Dieter von Fintel

Faculty (Economics)

Johan Fourie

Faculty (Economics)

Bokang Mpeta

Faculty (Economics)

Calumet Links

Faculty (Economics)

Jan Greyling

Faculty (Agriculture)

Anton Ehlers

Faculty (History)

Simon Bekker

Faculty (Sociology)

Jan Luiten van Zanden

Extraordinary professor

Martine Mariotti

Research affiliate

Erik Green

Research affiliate

Leigh Gardner

Research affiliate

Nonso Obikili

Research affiliate

Katherine Eriksson

Research affiliate

Kara Dimitruk

Postdoc (Economics)

Edward Kerby

Postdoc (Economics)

Francisco Marco

Postdoc (History)

Roy Havemann

PhD student (Economics)

Lloyd Melosi Maphosa

PhD student (History)

Heinrich Nel

PhD student (Economics)

Farai Nyika

PhD student (Economics)

Lisa Martin

PhD student (Economics)

Jeanne Cilliers

Former PhD (Economics)

Christie Swanepoel

Former PhD (Economics)

Abel Gwaindepi

Former PhD (Economics)

Felix Meier zu Selhausen

Visitors & Friends

David Bijsterbosch

Visitors & Friends

Angus Dalrymple-Smith

Visitors & Friends

Stefania Galli

Visitors & Friends

Mattia Bertazzini

Visitors & Friends

Igor Martins

Visitors & Friends

Timothy Ngalande

Former Masters student (Economics)

Omphile Ramela

Former Masters student (Economics)

Leila Bloch

Graduate student (History)

Rouzanne Carstens

Graduate student (History)

Thoko Gausi

Graduate student (Economics)

Cailin McRae

Graduate student (Economics)

Laura Richardson

Graduate student (History)

Beaurel Visser

Graduate student (History)



The programmes we offer.


An undergraduate course in Economic History and Economic Development is taught annually in the Department of Economics. Download the Work Programme below (PDF).



A graduate course in Institutional Economics is taught biannually in the Department of Economics. Download the Work Programme below (PDF).

Institutional Economics


A graduate course in Economic History is taught annually in the Department of Economics. Download the Work Programme below (PDF).

Economic History


A graduate course in Business History is taught annually in the Department of History.

Business History


We value our partnerships with these societies and institutions.

Agency is a complex phenomenon. It has many dimensions: it concerns political participation, but also the degree to which people can decide about their marriage. It is related to economic decision making, to free access to markets and how much coercion there is in the organization of the labour supply, but also to the development of a civil society.

And ‘freedom’ as such is perhaps not a very meaningful thing in a complex, highly literate world; one has to possess the right skills – the human capital – to really participate in markets, political events and the civil society. Human capital is therefore a crucial link in the process: it is an essential precondition for real participation and autonomy.

Jan Luiten van Zanden, In Good Company (EHDR 2012, p. 5)


Get in touch if you have any questions or need more information.


LEAP, Department of Economics
Private Bag X1
Matieland 7602


LEAP, Department of Economics
Schumann building, Bosman Street
Stellenbosch 7600
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