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Igor B. Martins is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Economic History at Lund University. Feel free to browse around!

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About me

I am an economic historian who specialized in development economics, labor coercion, and colonial legacies.

Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, I got my B.Sc. in Economics at Fundação Getulio Vargas. I obtained my M.Sc and Ph.D. in Economic History at Lund University in Sweden where I am currently a postdoctoral fellow contributing to the biggest African Economic History research project in the world!

During my doctoral studies, I was a member of the Cape of Good Hope Panel Project. Within this project, I cast new light on the economics of coercion by developing the idea that slaves contributed to the production processes as labor and capital inputs.  Ultimately, my doctoral thesis highlights the importance of slaves for the agricultural economy beyond the exploitation of their labor, a subject of particular significance in the economic history of Africa and the Americas.

Complementary to my research assignments, my teaching experience encompasses courses covering academic writing, methods, and colonialism in Africa and Latin America. For my work as a teacher, I have been awarded the Teacher of the Year prize in 2020 within Lund University School of Economics and Management.


Selected Publications

What caused poverty reduction in Brazil during the 2000s: sectoral growth or public expenditures

We ask what caused poverty to decline in Brazil during the first decade of the 21st century. Our contribution lies in the introduction of a structural change perspective to assess the evolution of poverty by considering the sectoral impact of growth and the social policies at the federal, state and municipal level. We confirm previous findings in the literature that the service sector rather than agriculture contributes the most to the sustained poverty reduction. Strikingly, the public administration is the leading sub-sector. We also find that state and municipal expenditures in human capital contribute more to poverty reduction than federal expenditures associated with conditional cash transfer programs; investment in infrastructure does not seem to contribute to poverty reduction.

Coauthored with Andrés Palacio.

Collateral Effect: Slavery and Wealth in the Cape Colony

Employing a range of newly digitized historical databases covering the economic life and genealogical history of the British Cape Colony through the 18th and 19th centuries, it explores the determinants of labor coercion in light of two significant institutional shocks: the Slave Trade Act 1807, when the transshipment of slaves became illegal, and the Slave Abolition Act 1833 when the possession of slaves was outlawed. It concludes that scenarios with weak property rights to land and lack of organized means for the provision of credit rendered slaves a suitable financial instrument allowing slaveholders to exploit the enslaved as means to raise capital beyond the agricultural labor. Understanding the proprietary relationship between masters and slaves and, consequently, their exploitation beyond agricultural work is key to explaining the dynamics of slavery in its entirety.

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Capital and Labor

Despite the prevalence of slavery in world history, our understanding of its rise, persistence, and fall remains limited. Most previous studies focus on slavery primarily as a labor contract indistinguishable from other coercive arrangements, such as serfdom. In this paper, we argue that this view fails to consider other forms of economic exploitation experienced by the enslaved. In the cases where property rights to land were either weak or did not yield significant values, slaveholders had an incentive to use slaves as means to raise capital beyond their role as farmworkers. This paper uses the Cape Colony, Brazil, and the southern United States as case studies to demonstrate that despite significant geographic, demographic, and economic differences, these slave economies still share significant elements for economic historians to continue the pursuit of a comprehensive theory of slavery. In this theory, the role of slaves as capital investments is necessary.

Coauthored with Erik Green.

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An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade

Why does slavery persist? Using newly digitized historical datasets covering more than 40 years in two different districts of the British Cape Colony, this paper measures changes in slave ownership and acquisition patterns following the Slave Trade Act 1807. By effectively banning the transshipment of slaves, the Act operated as a supply shock to Cape settlers. Given the agro-climatic variation of the Cape Colony, the effects of the Act are observed on farmers subjected to a different range of factor endowments which created very different labor demands. The results show that livestock farmers, surprisingly, were more inelastic to the import ban in comparison to crop farmers. These results suggest that slaveholders could extract rents from the enslaved in a multitude of ways beyond agricultural production and calls for a broader theory of slavery as capital investment.

Raising Capital to Raise Crops

Agricultural output fluctuated worldwide after the emancipation of slaves. The usual explanation is that former slaveholders now lacked labor. This is not the full story: slaves were not just laborers but capital investments to support production. Using databases covering more than 40 years from Stellenbosch in the British Cape Colony, this study measures changes in output before and after emancipation to determine the role of slaves as factors of production. Large shortfalls in compensation paid to slaveholders after the 1833 Abolition Act reveal that slaves were a source of capital that strongly influenced production levels, an important reason for the output variation.

Legacies of Loss

Can wealth shocks have intergenerational health consequences? We use the partial compensation slaveholders received after the 1834 slave emancipation in the British Cape Colony to measure the intergenerational effects of a wealth loss on longevity. Because the share of partial compensation received was uncorrelated to wealth, we can interpret the results as having a causal influence. We find that a greater loss of slave wealth shortened the lifespans of the generation of slaveholders that experienced the shock and those of their children, but not those of their grandchildren. We speculate on the mechanisms for this intergenerational persistence.

Coauthored with Jeanne Cilliers and Johan Fourie.


Teaching activities

January 18 - March 22, 2021

Field Work/Internship and Research Overview

The course aims at giving the students the experience of working in a development context. It also serves as a means of gathering material for the forthcoming bachelor’s thesis. The course is divided into three 15-credit tracks, and the student has to choose one of these. Two tracks give the opportunity to do a field study or an internship within a development organization, while the third track, the preparatory desk study, is an option for those who choose to remain at Lund University.

January 18 - March 22, 2021

Institutions, Economic Growth and Equity

Historical evidence suggests that the quality and efficiency of a country’s institutions, such as law enforcement, property rights, and civil rights, are significant elements of its economic and development performance. Furthermore, the extent of inequality in a society is highly related to the quality of institutions and thereby to the possibilities for economic growth. The latter is particularly relevant for the formation of public institutions for the provision of social security, education, and health care. This course studies such connections and interactions between institutions, modern economic growth, and equality. Problems in the world of today are taken as points of departure for a comparative historical analysis of countries and regions in different parts of the world.

September 1 - October 30, 2021

Colonialism and Economic Change in Africa, Asia and Latin America

The course considers the roots of contemporary development problems from a long-run perspective. Emphasis is placed upon an economic change in the south during the period 1500-1945. We adopt a comparative approach by drawing upon the varying experiences of a number of countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin American. Contemporary development issues are placed in the context of historical processes such as imperialism, independence movements, nation-building, the unique course of transformation, in addition to analyzing conditions linked with advances or obstructions to economic development.

September 1 - October 30, 2021

Development of Emerging Economies

Over the last decades, global growth dynamics have shifted towards the economies of the non-Western world. The world is no longer divided between the West and the Rest. Nor is the Rest to the same extent marked by stagnation. In the course, growth dynamics of the developing world during the last decades are explored in a comparative and historical perspective. The question of why some developing economies have been able to set in motion catching-up processes, while others remain stagnant, will be discussed aided by historical-theoretical perspectives with the main focus on countries in Pacific Asia, Africa South of the Sahara and Latin America.

September 1 - October 30, 2021

The Art of Writing and Reporting

The course aims at strengthening the writing skills of the student across a range of styles, thereby providing competences of practical use for employment or for further study e.g. writing a Bachelor thesis. The course works towards developing the prerequisite skills in writing, primarily obtained through practical training and active practice.  Apart from active written expression, the course offers an important learning opportunity for reading and analyzing the text of fellow cohorts, as well as an environment in which to discuss the construction and characteristics of texts together.

Letters of recommendation and more in-depth course descriptions are available upon request. Feel free to reach out!


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