The data revolution in African economic history

Big Data can be consequential for the field of history. The surge in computing power and access to data processing software and online resources have enabled historians over the past two decades to capture historical statistics on a much larger scale than before. In this paper I argue that the data revolution is especially valuable for studying the history of regions where written records are fairly scarce, such as sub-Saharan Africa. With the tools of data transcription, augmentation, and collaboration we are discovering much we did not know about the African past and its echoes in the present. The continuing projects to transcribe and digitize large numbers of colonial and post-colonial records are likely to teach us still more about Africa’s economic past over the coming decade.