The land abundance view of African history uses sparse population to explain pre-colonial land tenure and slavery. I document the geographical forcing variables that predict land rights, slavery and population density in a cross section of global societies. I discuss whether these correlations support theories of land rights and slavery, including the land abundance view. I show that pre-colonial institutions predict institutional outcomes in Africa in the present, including land transactions, polygamy and public goods. Pre-colonial institutions have effects above those of geography. The colonial reversal of fortune did not erase their influence.