28 Feb

Young Yeob Ha, Pittsburgh

06 Mar

Francesco Ferlenga, Brown

13 Mar

Caterina Chiopris, Harvard

20 Mar

Mariama Sow, Michigan State University

27 Mar


03 Apr

Miriam Venturini, Zurich

10 Apr

Marie Beigelman, Barcelona

17 Apr

Madison Arnsbarger, Pittsburgh

24 Apr

Tim Ngalande, Stellenbosch

01 May

Public holiday

08 May

Tom Raster, PSE


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

Stellenbosch University has a proud record of Economic History teaching and research. Prof. Sampie Terreblanche, appointed Professor of Economic History in 1968, will be remembered for his fearlessness in speaking truth to power, a public intellectual who constantly reminded apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa of the injustice inherent in economic inequality. The Department of Economics now honours Sampie, as he was widely known, with a dedicated website and repository of his written work.

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. Instrumental in this was the hosting of the 2012 World Economic History Congress. The Congress, held during a cold July, 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. LEAP became a formal Type 1-centre within the Department of Economics in 2023.

Success depended on recruiting high-potential students and exposing them to the leading thinkers in African economic history and economic and social history more generally.

The Department of Economics now teach an undergraduate and graduate Economic History course 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.

In the last five years, LEAP has grown from a handful of students to a group of more than 25 students, postdocs and faculty. 

Economic History is now taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The undergraduate course was turned into a commercially successful book, Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom, published by Tafelberg in 2021 and Cambridge University Press in 2022, reaching markets far beyond the classroom. Graduate students have been successfully placed within PhD programmes in the UK (Warwick), Germany (Tubingen) and Sweden (Lund). Several have also completed their PhDs within LEAP.

International collaborative partnerships are key to leveraging world-class research.

To build networks across Europe, North America and Africa, the department has appointed several Research Associates and one Extraordinary Professor in Economic History, Jan Luiten van Zanden, Professor of Economic History at Utrecht University. Between 2018 and 2022, the Biography of an Uncharted People project, generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has facilitated greater interaction with the History department at Stellenbosch University. The scope of work has expanded beyond economic history, to also include social, demographic, financial and family history.

Since 2021, LEAP researchers have been involved in the Cape of Good Hope Panel project, one of the largest social science projects in Sweden. Thanks to a generous grant from the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, the purpose of this project is to transcribe the full series of tax censuses and match households across censuses. This would allow us to investigate questions about the evolution of living standards and economic development, inequality and social mobility, networks and elite formation and slavery and labour coercion.

LEAP has identified five traits that characterise our work:


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


Issue 11, November 2023

Issue 10, October 2022

Issue 9, May 2022

Issue 8, Nov 2021

Issue 7, May 2021

Issue 6, Nov 2020

Issue 5, May 2020

Issue 4, October 2019

Issue 3, May 2019

Issue 2, October 2018

Issue 1, May 2018



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.


The Governing Board consists of seven members.

Michael Graham (chair) is Vice-dean: Research of the EMS Faculty. He is a financial economist.

Ada Jansen is the HoD of Economics. She is an economist specialising in tax policy.

Janine Myburgh is the Chairperson of the Pniël Museum and Heritage Site. She is a senior admin officer at the Department of Civil Engineering.

Kanshukan Rajaratnam is the Director of the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking. He is a financial engineer.

Kris Inwood is Professor in Economics and in History at the University of Guelph.

Mohamed Saleh is Associate Professor of Economic History at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Johan Fourie is the first Director of LEAP. Fourie completed his PhD in the Department of Economic and Social History at Utrecht University in 2012.

Since then, he has published more than 70 articles in leading journals, including the Economic History Review, Explorations in Economic History, Journal of Comparative Economics, and World Development. He is a founding member of the African Economic History Network, a former editor of EHDR and president of the EHSSA, and currently serves on the board of the International Economic History Association. He runs a weekly blog at


Faculty and Students

Dieter von Fintel

Faculty (Economics)

Johan Fourie

Faculty (Economics)

Calumet Links

Faculty (Economics)

Anton Ehlers

Faculty (History)

Edward Kerby


Esté Kotzé

Postdoc (Economics)

Kate Ekama

Postdoc (Economics)

Leoné Walters

Postdoc (Economics)

Jonathan Schoots

Postdoc (Economics)

Karen Jennings

Postdoc (History)

Nobungcwele Mbem

PhD student (History)

Karl Bergemann

PhD student (History)

Munashe Chideya

PhD student (History)

Lauren Stevens

PhD student (Economics)

Timothy Ngalande

PhD student (Economics)

Lisa Martin

PhD student (Economics)

Kereeditse Tsokodibane

Graduate student (History)

Christiaan Burger

Graduate student (History)

Benjamin Crous

Graduate student (History)

Kara Ranwell

Graduate student (Economics)

Tessa Hubble

Graduate student (Economics)

Jan-Hendrik Pretorius

Graduate student (Economics)

Extraordinary professors and Research affiliates

Jan Luiten van Zanden

Extraordinary professor

Price Fishback

Extraordinary Professor

Marianne Wanamaker

Research affiliate

Martine Mariotti

Research affiliate

Erik Green

Research affiliate

Leigh Gardner

Research affiliate

Johannes Norling

Research affiliate

Abel Gwaindepi

Research affiliate

Former students and visitors

Nonso Obikili

Visitors & Friends

Laura Helfer

Visitors & Friends

Pablo Cebrian

Visitors & Friends

Igor Martins

Visitors & Friends

Mattia Bertazzini

Visitors & Friends

Stefania Galli

Visitors & Friends

Angus Dalrymple-Smith

Visitors & Friends

David Bijsterbosch

Visitors & Friends

Felix Meier zu Selhausen

Visitors & Friends

Joachim Wehner

Visitors & Friends

Francisco Marco

Former postdoc (History)

Young-ook Jang

Former Postdoc (Economics)

Kara Dimitruk

Former Postdoc (Economics)

Elie Murard

Former Postdoc (Economics)

Lloyd Melosi Maphosa

Former PhD (History)

Jeanne Cilliers

Former PhD (Economics)

Farai Nyika

Former PhD (Economics)

Christie Swanepoel

Former PhD (Economics)

Roy Havemann

Former PhD (Economics)

Heinrich Nel

Former PhD (Economics)

Omphile Ramela

Former Masters (Economics)

Cailin McRae

Former Masters (History)

Thoko Gausi

Former Masters (Economics)

Laura Richardson

Former Masters (History)

Beaurel Visser

Former Masters (History)

Leila Bloch

Former Masters (History)

Jason Lord

Former Masters (History)

Bokang Mpeta

Former Masters (Economics)

Betty Chiwayu

Former Masters (Economics)

Brittany Chalmers

Former Masters (History)

Paige Smith

Former Masters (History)

Jonathan Jayes

Former Masters (Economics)

Deporah Kapenda

Former Masters (Economics)

Katherine Steinke

Former Masters (History)

Zander Prinsloo

Former Masters (Economics)

Kudzai Chidamwoyo

Graduate student (History)

Anelisa Majokweni

Graduate student (History)

Lusungu Mkandawire

Graduate student (Economics)

Kelsey Lemon

Graduate student (History)

Amy Rommelspacher

PhD student (History)

Tiaan de Swardt

Graduate student (Economics)

Lauren Coetzee

Graduate student (History)




The programmes we offer.


An undergraduate course in Economic History and Economic Development is taught annually in the Department of Economics.


A graduate course in Institutional Economics is taught biannually in the Department of Economics.


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


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


We value our partnerships with these societies and institutions.


The first professor to be appointed in economic history at Stellenbosch was professor Sampie Terreblanche. Prof Sampie, as he was affectionately known, produced several books and monographs on economic history and the history of economic thought, with a particular focus on South Africa.

His full research repository is now available on a dedicated website.


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
View Google map >