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The Black Man's Burden - The cost of colonization of French West Africa for French taxpayers

Author

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  • Elise Huillery

    (PJSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris, PSE - Paris School of Economics)

Abstract

Was colonization very costly for the metropole? This view has been widely accepted among French historians even though little empirical evidence has been provided. Using original data from the colonial budgets of French West Africa (AOF) this paper provides new insights into the actual colonial public funding in this part of the French empire. Comparing the financial transfers from the metropole to AOF to total metropolitan expenses reveals that the cost of colonization of the AOF for French taxpayers was extremely low: French subsidies to the AOF represented on average 0.007 percent of total metropolitan expenses. From the AOF side financial transfers from the metropole were not that beneficiary since French subsidies represented on average 0.4 percent of total local revenue. Including the public loans and cash advances from the metropole does not change this general pattern. West Africans therefore funded most colonial public investments which reveal to be very small. One reason for the scarcity of public investments is the cost of French civil servants serving in the colonies which turned out to be a considerable burden for Africans: French government officials alone represented 20 percent of total local public expenses.

Suggested Citation

  • Elise Huillery, 2009. "The Black Man's Burden - The cost of colonization of French West Africa for French taxpayers," PSE Working Papers halshs-00567662, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00567662
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00567662
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    Cited by:

    1. Kodila-Tedika, Oasis, 2013. "Esclavagisme et colonisation : Quelles conséquences contemporaines en Afrique ? - Résumé critique des travaux de l'économiste Nathan Nunn
      [Slavery and colonization: What contemporary consequences i
      ," MPRA Paper 43732, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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