Social Mobility Among Christian Africans: Evidence from Anglican Marriage Registers in Uganda, 1895-2011

54 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2017

See all articles by Felix Meier zu Selhausen

Felix Meier zu Selhausen

Utrecht University

Marco H.D. van Leeuwen

Utrecht University

Jacob Louis Weisdorf

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2017

Abstract

This article uses Anglican marriage registers from colonial and post-colonial Uganda to investigate long-term trends and determinants of intergenerational social mobility among Christian African men. We show that the colonial era opened up new labour opportunities for our African converts enabling them to take large steps up the social ladder regardless of their social origin. Contrary to the widespread belief that British indirect rule perpetuated the power of pre-colonial African elites, we show that a remarkably fluid colonial labour economy actually undermined their social advantages. Sons of traditional landed chiefs gradually lost their high social-status monopoly to a new commercially-orientated and well-educated class of Anglican Ugandans, who mostly came from non-elite and even lower-class backgrounds. We also document that the colonial administration and the Anglican mission functioned as key steps on the ladder to upward mobility, and that mission education helped provide the skills and social reference needed to climb it. These social mobility patterns persisted throughout the post-colonial era despite rising informal labour during Idi Amin's dictatorship.

Keywords: Chiefs, Christian Missionaries, Indirect Colonial Rule, Labour History, Social mobility, Uganda

JEL Classification: J62, O15

Suggested Citation

Meier zu Selhausen, Felix and van Leeuwen, Marco H.D. and Weisdorf, Jacob Louis, Social Mobility Among Christian Africans: Evidence from Anglican Marriage Registers in Uganda, 1895-2011 (January 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP11767. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2900184

Felix Meier zu Selhausen (Contact Author)

Utrecht University ( email )

Vredenburg 138
Utrecht, 3511 BG
Netherlands

Marco H.D. Van Leeuwen

Utrecht University ( email )

Vredenburg 138
Utrecht, 3511 BG
Netherlands

Jacob Louis Weisdorf

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Øster Farimagsgade 5
Bygning 26
1353 Copenhagen K.
Denmark

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