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Attaining autonomy in the empire: French governors between 1860 and 1960


  • Scott Viallet-Thévenin
  • Cédric Chambru


This article builds on the concept of linked ecologies to present a study of the occupational careers of French colonial governors between 1830 and 1960. We consider empires as the by-product of social entities structuring themselves. Specifically, we analyse the process of empowerment of this emerging group with respect to other professional groups within the imperial space and the French metropolitan space. Using data on the career of 637 colonial governors between 1830 and 1960, we examine how variations in the recruitment of these high civil servants actually reflect the empowerment of this social entity. We rely on optimal matching technique to distinguish typical sequence models and identify ten common career trajectories that can be grouped in four main clusters. We further compare the share of each clusters in the population of governors over time and show that the rise of the colonial cluster during the Interwar period corresponded to the peak of the administrative autonomy in the colonial space. We argue that this process is consistent with the empowerment of the governors’ corps, which is embodied by a common career within the colonial administration and a collective identity as a group.

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  • Scott Viallet-Thévenin & Cédric Chambru, 2020. "Attaining autonomy in the empire: French governors between 1860 and 1960," ECON - Working Papers 366, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:366

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Denis Cogneau & Yannick Dupraz & Sandrine Mesplé-Somps, 2020. "Fiscal Capacity and Dualism in Colonial States : The French Empire 1830-1962," PSE Working Papers halshs-01818700, HAL.
    2. Mike Savage & Katherine Stovel & Peter Bearman, 2001. "Class Formation and Localism in an Emerging Bureaucracy: British Bank Workers, 1880–1960," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(2), pages 284-300, June.
    3. Gabadinho, Alexis & Ritschard, Gilbert & Müller, Nicolas S & Studer, Matthias, 2011. "Analyzing and Visualizing State Sequences in R with TraMineR," Journal of Statistical Software, Foundation for Open Access Statistics, vol. 40(i04).
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    More about this item


    State employment decisions; empowerment; French colonial Empire; 19th century; 20th century;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • F54 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - Colonialism; Imperialism; Postcolonialism
    • H83 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues - - - Public Administration
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets
    • M51 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Firm Employment Decisions; Promotions
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-

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