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The Black Man's Burden :The Cost of Colonization of French West Africa

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  • Elise Huillery

    (ECON - Département d'économie (Sciences Po) - Sciences Po - Sciences Po - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

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," Working Papers hal-01066201, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:hal-01066201
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://hal-sciencespo.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01066201
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Elise Huillery, 2009. "History Matters: The Long-Term Impact of Colonial Public Investments in French West Africa," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 176-215, April.
    2. James Foreman-Peck, 1989. "Foreign investment and imperial exploitation: balance of payments reconstruction for nineteenth-century Britain and India," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 42(3), pages 354-374, August.
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    Cited by:

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    2. Kodila-Tedika, Oasis & Asongu, Simplice & Cinyabuguma, Matthias, 2016. "The White Man’s Burden: On the Effect of African Resistance to European Domination," MPRA Paper 74228, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2017. "States and economic growth: Capacity and constraints," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 1-20.
    4. Guido Alfani & Federico Tadei, 2017. "Income Inequality in Colonial Africa: Building Social Tables for Pre-Independence Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, and Senegal," Working Papers 594, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    5. Cornelius Christian & James Fenske, 2015. "Economic shocks and unrest in French West Africa," CSAE Working Paper Series 2015-01, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    6. Koddenbrock, Kai & Kvangraven, Ingrid Harvold & Sylla, Ndongo Samba, 2020. "Beyond Financialisation: The Need for a Longue Durée Understanding of Finance in Imperialism," OSF Preprints pjt7x, Center for Open Science.
    7. Kodila-Tedika, Oasis & Asongu, Simplice, 2018. "The Long-Term Effects of African Resistance to European Domination: Institutional Mechanism," MPRA Paper 85237, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Lassou, Philippe J.C. & Hopper, Trevor & Tsamenyi, Mathew & Murinde, Victor, 2019. "Varieties of neo-colonialism: Government accounting reforms in Anglophone and Francophone Africa – Benin and Ghana compared," CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
    9. Maravall Buckwalter, Laura, 2017. "Factor Endowments and Farm Structure : Algerian Settler Agriculture During the First Globalization (1870-1914)," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH 26085, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.
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    11. Federico Tadei, 2014. "Extractive Institutions and Gains From Trade: Evidence from Colonial Africa," Working Papers 536, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.

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