Working papers available upon request.
Colonialism and its Legacies
The Colonial Struggle over Polygamy: Local Norms and the Missionary Expansion of Education in Africa
Research on colonial legacies mainly considers pre-colonial conditions for methodological reasons. Interactions between colonial interventions and local conditions are rarely considered. This paper studies the long-term effects of Christian missions in colonial Africa to demonstrate that such interactions can provide valuable insights. It argues that the colonial struggle over polygamy, which resulted from missionaries insistence on monogamy, lowered demand for education in polygamous societies. Analyses of geocoded data from historical and contemporary sources, covering most of sub-Saharan Africa, show that the struggle leads to differential educational outcomes to the present day. While colonial-era mission presence raises primary school completion and literacy rates in polygamous localities, by about 4 and 7 percentage points respectively, non-polygamous localities benefit almost twice as much. More attention to such interactions can advance our understanding of variations in colonial legacies and the role of local factors and responses.
The Colonial Labour Question: Trade and Social Policy in Interwar Africa (with Carina Schmitt)
Social protection is a central instrument to fight poverty and inequality in the Global South. Today, almost all countries have at least some social protection schemes in place. In former colonies, the historical roots of these systems can often be traced back to colonial times. In this paper, we argue that spending on social services for the local population was seen as a necessary condition to expand the trade-based colonial economy from the interwar period onwards. Using novel data on health and education expenditure in 36 former British and French African colonies during the height of their empires (1925-36), we show that trade volumes account for a large share in the variance of social expenditure. Our results suggest that similar mechanisms are at play within the two empires, and that differences between them are in degree rather than in kind.