Endogenous Colonial Institutions: Lessons from Fiscal Capacity Building in British and French Africa, 1880-1940
Posted: 17 Apr 2013
Date Written: April 17, 2013
Recent economic and historical literature has emphasized the importance of metropolitan identity for the nature of colonial institutions. But to what extent did particular colonial policy objectives actually translate into institutional design? We explore the importance of exogenously-imposed metropolitan policies and endogenous economic and political conditions for the design of colonial institutional development in British and French Africa through the lens of colonial taxation. Fiscal institutions were a key element in the process of colonial state formation as they constituted the financial backbone of the colonial state. Using colonial government budget accounts we construct Purchasing Power Parity-adjusted comparisons of per capita government revenue, and analyze the source composition of taxes. We find that local geographies and indigenous responses to commercial opportunities were key determinants for the design of local colonial tax systems and that typically ‘British’ or ‘French’ tax policy blueprints are hard to decipher.
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