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The Golden Fleece of the Cape: Capitalist expansion and labour relations in the periphery of transnational wool production, c. 1860–1950
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of History.
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is about the organisation, character and change of labour relations in expanding capitalist wool farming in the Cape between 1860 and 1950. It is an attempt to analyse labour in wool farming within a transnational framework, based on an expansion of capital from core to periphery of the capitalist world-economy.

Wool farming in peripheries like the Cape was part of capitalist production through the link to primarily the British textile industry. This relationship enabled wool farmers to invest in their farms in sheep, fences and windmills. They thereby became agents of capital expansion in the world-economy, which was a prerequisite for a capitalist expansion. Although wool production in the Cape was initially an imperial division of labour, that relation changed during the twentieth century as Britain’s leading role as textile producer was challenged by other capitalist core countries. Capitalism as a transnational production system, based on commodity chains from periphery to core, became the most crucial structure for wool farmers in the Cape, who could increase their exports.

The thesis also shows that the pre-capitalist generational division of labour among black peasants, through which farmers acquired labour, especially shepherds, was both discarded and intensified. Shepherding was intensified along with fencing during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century due to threat from jackals and lack of sufficient water supplies. Those farmers who invested in technology in the form of jackal-proof fences and windmills managed to change production from herding to rotational grazing in camps, which meant that shepherds were replaced by camp walkers, who controlled fences instead of sheep. Those farmers who did not invest were forced to exploit the pre-capitalist relations more intensively and hire shepherds in order to be able to produce and sell wool to textile manufacturers in capitalist core areas. As the young adult males disappeared from farms to the mines, the role of children and youths as shepherds became increasingly important. By the 1940s almost all the shepherds were children or youths, but they were about to be made redundant, as the number of shepherds decreased during the 1930s and 1940s.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2013. , 225 p.
Studia historica Upsaliensia, ISSN 0081-6531 ; 247
Keyword [en]
capitalist expansion, transnational production, commodity chains, accumulation of capital, labour relations, shepherds, wool farming, fencing, environment, generational division of labour, gendered division of labour, imperialism, capitalism, British Empire, Rosa Luxemburg, South Africa, the Cape, eastern Cape.
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-193053ISBN: 978-91-554-8588-7OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-193053DiVA: diva2:601562
Public defence
2013-03-15, Universitetshuset sal IX, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2013-02-22 Created: 2013-01-28 Last updated: 2014-10-02Bibliographically approved

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Lilja, Fredrik
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