Colonialism and Industrialization: A Critique of Lewis

34 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2006 Last revised: 10 Mar 2013

Date Written: May 1, 2004


This paper presents a critique of W. Arthur Lewis' economic explanation of the division of the world into industrial and agricultural countries. First, Lewis' claim that industrialization in the tropics was held back by small markets and adverse factoral terms of trade is flawed in its logic, and lacks empirical support as well. Second, his rejection of the imperialist origins of poverty is poorly argued, and his claim that colonial policies did not differ from policies of sovereign countries is not supported even by his own evidence. He also ignores the strong correlation between loss of sovereignty and poor growth performance.

Keywords: Industrialization, Industry, Manufacturing, Manufactures, Colonialism, Imperialism, Economic growth, Market size, Terms of Trade, Economic backwardness, Arthur Lewis, W. A. Lewis

JEL Classification: N10, O14, O50

Suggested Citation

Alam, Mohammad Shahid, Colonialism and Industrialization: A Critique of Lewis (May 1, 2004). Review of Radical Political Economics, pp. 217-240, Spring 2004, Available at SSRN:

Mohammad Shahid Alam (Contact Author)

Northeastern University ( email )

220 B RP
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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