What role did malaria play in the spread of slavery in the United States?

Insights from research at HEC Lausanne-UNIL ’ The introduction and spread of slavery in the United States are a controversial period of US history that has prompted numerous debates. In her latest research, Professor Elena Esposito from HEC Lausanne (UNIL) has tackled this sensitive issue by trying to understand whether there was a link between the spread of malaria and the increase in slavery in the United States.

By researching historical documents and archive data, Prof. Elena Esposito discovered that malaria played a significant role in the spread of slavery in the United States at the end of the 17 th and beginning of the 18 th century.

The epidemic meant that warm, humid areas of the United States, mainly in the south, faced a real shortage of labor. The results of the research led by Prof. Esposito showed that the pandemic context prompted plantation owners to turn to slaves from sub-Saharan Africa because of their resistance to the disease. Exposure to a disease that had been raging in their countries of origin for many years meant that Africans had a higher resistance to malaria than either Native Americans or Europeans.

: Elena Esposito Elena Esposito is Assistant Professor at HEC Lausanne, University of Lausanne. She is an applied economist with research interests in the fields of development economics, economic growth, political economy, and economic history. Elena Esposito earned a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Bologna in 2014 and she joined the department of Economics at the European University Institute (Italy) as "Max Weber Fellow". She spent research periods at the departments of economics at universities in the USA. She also worked as an economic researcher and consultant for several international organizations, participating to projects with UNICEF, the European Commission and the World Bank, among others.

: Research in the Department of Economics focuses on the areas of health, industrial, public, spatial, experimental and national economics along with theoretical and applied econometrics, finance and European integration.