Colonial independence and economic backwardness in Latin America
This paper explores the connections between independence from Spain and Portugal and economic backwardness in Latin America. The release of the fiscal burden was offset by higher costs of self-government, while opening up to the international economy represented a handmaiden of growth. Independence had a very different impact across regions and widened regional disparities. The commitment to the colonial mercantilism conditioned the new republics’ performance but, on the whole, GDP per head increased in the half a century after emancipation. It appears that inherited Iberian institutions cannot be blamed for Latin America’s poor performance relative to the US, especially if the scope is widened to include the post-independence performance of former European colonies in Africa and Asia. It is suggested that before jumping to the usual negative assessment of nineteenth century Latin America, a comparison of post-independence performance in other world regions will be required.
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