Out of Africa: Ugandan Anglican marriage registers, 1895-2010

Reseachers involved:Ā Felix Meier zu Selhausen and Jacob Weisdorf


The aim of this project is to analyze the economic development of Uganda during the colonial and the post-colonial period on the basis of Anglican parish marriage registers. The project is confined to the Buganda and Toro Kingdom in Central and Western Uganda - Buganda being demographically and economically the most important region of Uganda since the pre-colonial period. Our main method is based on historical fieldwork at the earliest Anglican missionary stations (now dioceses) whereby 20,876 marriages have been gathered, digitized and coded for the period 1895-2012. Despite the availability of parish marriage registers across Africa, so far there has been little effort devoted to exploit the potential of those clerical recordings. In this regard, this project is the first to make use of historical Anglican marriage registers from Africa.

Anglican marriage records provide vital information on spousesā€™ age at first marriage, spousesā€™ occupation, and their fatherā€™s occupation as well, spousesā€™ residence, their literacy status. Demographic historians widely rely on sources from the Church (Wrigley et al. 1997) given that they were often the only institution documenting family life. This is not different for sub-Saharan Africa, where the expansion and character of Christianity through missionary efforts is without historical precedent (Nunn, 2010).fingerprints

The data sheds light on African welfare development on the micro-level of households for which a paucity of (reliable) time-series data typically complicates measuring long-term trends connecting the colonial to the post-colonial era. In response to the paucity of data, the use of a vast array of colonial records has resulted in new avenues for exploring Africaā€™s economic history, using anthropometric figures taken from African army recruits (Moradi 2009, Cogneau & Rouanet 2011), British African real wages derived from price and wage statistics in colonial Blue Books (De Zwart 2011; Frankema & Van Waijenburg 2012), and levels of wealth for the Cape Colony calculated on the basis of probate and auction rolls (Fourie 2012).Ā 

Furthermore, the use of micro-data from specific African contexts avoids the 'compression of history', Gareth Austin (2008) warned against. Thus, this project aims to make a methodological and empirical contribution to the study of African economic history and address different themes of Africanā€™s agency, gender inequality, women's socio-economic position, marriage patterns, and intergenerational social mobility.Ā 

The project is partly sponsored by University of Southern Denmark and JacobĀ Weisdorf'sĀ MarieĀ CurieĀ Intra-European Fellowship (grant noĀ° 300399).


Upcoming events

4th European Congress on World and Global History,Ā Ā Ć‰cole Normale SupĆ©rieure(Paris),Ā 5 September 2014.

NWO-ClioInfra Workshop, Early Developments of Health and Education: Global and Regional Perspectives on the Pre-1800 Evidence, University Barcelona, 2-3 October 2014.

9th New Frontiers in African Economic History Workshop,Ā London School of Economics and Political Science, 24-25 October 2014.



Meier zu Selhausen, F. (2014). Missionaries and female empowerment in colonial Uganda: New evidence from Protestant marriage registers, 1880-1945.Ā Economic History of Developing RegionsĀ 29(1): 74-112. Working PaperĀ 

Meier zu Selhausen, F. and J. Weisdorf (2014). A Colonial Legacy of African Gender Inequality? Evidence from Christian Kampala, 1895-2011. CGEH Working PaperĀ no. 60.


Past events

Intensive Workshop: Using the Cambridge Group Family Reconstitutions, Cambridge University, 14-15 May 2013.

CrossroadsĀ in African StudiesĀ Conference, University of Birmingham, 4-6 September 2013.

Tenth Swedish Economic History Meeting, Lund University, 4-5 October 2013.

8th New Frontiers in African Economic History Workshop,Ā Lund University, 6-7 December 2013.

Utrecht Social and Economic History Seminar, Utrecht University, 27 March 2014.

European Social Science History Conference, Session:Ā ā€˜Agency,Ā Gender, Human Capital and World Economic Developmentā€™,Ā Vienna, 23-26 April 2014.