Gardner’s paper revisits the League of Nation’s investigation into the export of forced workers from Liberia to the sugar islands in the 1930s, placing it within the broader context of Liberia’s increasingly marginalized position in West African trade. Thiesen-Mark’s project examines the use of vagrancy laws to increase the labor supply available to mid-size farms in Liberia in the 1960s, focusing particularly on cooperation between paramount chiefs and the Liberian government. Van Waijenburg’s paper explores the place and significance of forced labor for colonial tax building strategies, complementing the predominantly labor market-oriented interpretations of the coercion schemes. Finally, Sara Lowes and Eduardo Montero’s contribution employs sophisticated econometric techniques to assess the long-term effects of the Congo Free State’s violent rubber extraction regime.
With this interdisciplinary panel we set out to deepen conversations between qualitative and quantitative approaches to the history of forced labor. More generally, we hope that our focus on the potential complementarity of different (methodological) approaches will build bridges between the work of historians, economic historians, and economists.