Land abundance and economic institutions: Egba land and slavery, 1830–1914



The ‘land abundance’ view of African history uses sparse population to explain economic institutions. This article uses colonial court records to show that the Egba of Nigeria fit this theory's predictions. Before 1914, the Egba had imprecisely defined land rights, relied on dependent and forced labour, and used labour to secure loans. These institutions responded to the changing availability of land, labour, and capital. An initial period of land scarcity altered land ownership. A market existed for the most valuable land. Slaves were used by those with better opportunities to acquire them, and credit expanded after the introduction of tree crops.