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The transatlantic slave trade and the evolution of political authority in West Africa

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  • Whatley, Warren

Abstract

I trace the impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade on the evolution of political authority in West Africa. I present econometric evidence showing that the trans-Atlantic slave trade increased absolutism in pre-colonial West Africa by approximately 17% to 35%, while reducing democracy and liberalism. I argue that this slavery-induced absolutism also influenced the structure of African political institutions in the colonial era and beyond. I present aggregate evidence showing that British colonies that exported more slaves in the era of the slave trade were ruled more-indirectly by colonial administrations. I argue that indirect colonial rule relied on sub-national absolutisms to control populations and extract surplus, and in the process transformed absolutist political customs into rule of law. The post-colonial federal authority, like the colonial authority before it, lacked the administrative apparatus and political clout to integrate these local authorities, even when they wanted to. From this perspective, state-failure in West Africa may be rooted in a political and economic history that is unique to Africa in many respects, a history that dates at least as far back as the era of the transatlantic slave trade.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 44932.

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Date of creation: Apr 2012
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:44932

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Related research

Keywords: Africa; slave trade; institutions; long-term deveopment;

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References

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  1. Nathan Nunn & Diego Puga, 2012. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 20-36, February.
  2. Greif, Avner, 1989. "Reputation and Coalitions in Medieval Trade: Evidence on the Maghribi Traders," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 857-882, December.
  3. Andrei Shleifer & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Rafael La Porta, 2008. "The Economic Consequences of Legal Origins," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(2), pages 285-332, June.
  4. Lakshmi Iyer, 2005. "Direct versus Indirect Colonial Rule in India: Long-term Consequences," Harvard Business School Working Papers 05-041, Harvard Business School, revised Nov 2008.
  5. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," NBER Working Papers 8460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Nunn, Nathan & Wantchekon, Leonard, 2011. "The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa," Scholarly Articles 11986331, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Richardson, David, 1991. "Prices of Slaves in West and West-Central Africa: Toward an Annual Series, 1698-1807," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(1), pages 21-56, January.
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  13. Warren Whatley & Rob Gillezeau, 2011. "The Impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on Ethnic Stratification in Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 571-76, May.
  14. Lange, Matthew K., 2004. "British Colonial Legacies and Political Development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 905-922, June.
  15. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2005. "Unbundling Institutions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(5), pages 949-995, October.
  16. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. David, Paul A, 1985. "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 332-37, May.
  18. Olsson, Ola, 2009. "On the democratic legacy of colonialism," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 534-551, December.
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  1. Slavery and the Modern World
    by stephdeck1 in NEP-HIS blog on 2014-03-03 12:22:25

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