In colonies of white settlement the most important factor was that the highly extractive nature of colonial rule and land grabs manifested themselves, as we noted, in quite serious immiserisation of Africans during the colonial period.
Most African countries saw steadily rising incomes over the colonial period relative to the base year This implies missionaries would have gone to convert people and built schools, the League of Nations would have tried to abolish coerced labour, and the WHO would have tried to disseminate medical technology.
Furthermore, being colonised meant deeper integration into world trade. There is evidence of improved economic development outcomes within the colonial period, for instance real wages increased under the formal sector in British West Africa Frankema and Van Waaijenburg We have to think about what the trajectories of African societies would have been in the absence of colonialism.
Was colonial rule as predatory as many claim?
Indeed, in most cases post-independence economic decline in Africa can be explicitly attributed to colonialism because the types of mechanisms that led to this decline were creations of colonial society. European powers arbitrarily divided up Africa between themselves and started administrating their new colonies.
Yet, how much of this is due to colonialism and how much of it would have happened anyway, in the wake of trade expansion is unclear. Those with a centralised state at the time of Scramble for Africa, such as Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho, Rwanda, and Swaziland; Those of white settlement, such as Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and probably Angola and Mozambique as well; Everyone else - colonies which did not experience significant white settlement and where there was either no significant pre-colonial state formation like Somalia or South Sudan or where there was a mixture of centralised and uncentralised societies such as Congo-Brazzaville, Nigeria, Uganda and Sierra Leone.
In the second and third sets we similarly assume that political institutions would have continued on the path they had in the 19th century.
Moreover, the stature of military recruits in Ghana and British East Africa suggests that height increased during the colonial period MoradiAustin, Baten and Moradia sign of increasing prosperity.
To judge the impact of colonialism on development in Africa simply by looking at outcomes during the colonial period is a conceptual mistake. Yet the evidence suggests that even these societies were very ready to adopt better technology when it appeared 3 and any gains that there might have been in terms of stability were reversed when the British left inbequeathing to the Ugandans a polity with no workable social contract resulting in 50 years of political instability, military dictatorships and civil war.
So we might observe formal sector wages going up while the vast majority of the population, cut off from the formal sector, sees its purchasing power deteriorate.
Africans were able to reap the benefits of the introduction of railways and mining technology. After independence, even if these states had a coherence others lacked, they had far more predatory rulers. Post-independence Africa looked nothing like it would have done in the absence of colonialism.
And, albeit with some exceptions, these countries are among the poorest in the world today. A few observations are in order: Some of the findings are puzzling for critics of colonialism.
Yet even in many of these more ambiguous cases it seems hard to make a strong case in favor of colonialism actually fostering development. Colonialism retarded development Taking into account these trends as well as recognising the need for a counterfactual we argue that in two sorts of colonies there is a clear case to be made for colonialism retarding development; those with a centralised state at the time of Scramble for Africa and those of white settlement.
The third set of cases are more complex because it does not seem plausible that the pre-colonial institutions of Somalia, for example, were conducive to development or were undergoing a process of state formation. In the former, just the assumption that the previous patterns of political development would continue is sufficient to argue that these countries would be more developed today.
Debate has raged on this question for 50 years but for the first time exciting research by economic historians in colonial archives is putting the debate on a sound empirical footing.
Our recent research Heldring and Robinson evaluates this question and argues that the answer is probably no. It seems reasonable to assume that all groups, absent colonialism, would have had the same contacts with the rest of the world.
Seventy years later they bequeathed to native Africans countries that looked remarkably different from how they looked in Three types of colonies To facilitate the use of counterfactuals we distinguish between three types of colony: The evidence clearly suggests that states such as the Tswana states in Botswana, the Asante state in Ghana, or the Rwanda state were becoming more centralised and consolidated.
Conclusion All in all, it is difficult to bring the available evidence together with plausible counterfactuals to argue that there is any country today in Sub-Saharan Africa that is more developed because it was colonised by Europeans. Evaluating the impact of colonialism involves not just looking at the raw numbers but considering the counterfactual.
These polities also suffered from the uniform colonial legacies of racism, stereotypes and misconceptions that Africans may not have had and which have since caused immense problems, most notably in Burundi and Rwanda.
Would it have been richer today? In terms of political institutions, in the first set of countries the type of state formation and development that had taken place in the 19th century would have continued.
Moreover, it implies that African countries would have continued to export, as many had prior to The evolution of the international dissemination and diffusion of technology plus the relative absence of slavery in this part of Africa makes it likely that, absent colonialism, African living standards would have slowly improved.
It seems plausible that even without colonisation missionaries would have expanded education and the WHO would have brought medical technology, for instance 1. If the Europeans brought technology or institutions, absent colonialism Africans could have adopted or innovated these themselves.
Colonialism not only blocked further political development, but indirect rule made local elites less accountable to their citizens.
It could be, to consider Uganda, that the British brought stability by stopping long-running conflicts between the pre-colonial states of Buganda, Bunyoro, Ankole and Tooro.Start studying WC Final Exam.
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