Fiscal Foundations of the African Colonial State

Leigh A. Gardner

in Taxing Colonial Africa

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199661527
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191744877 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Historical Monographs

Fiscal Foundations of the African Colonial State

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This chapter examines the development of colonial fiscal systems during the formative decade of African colonialism. Colonial budgets reflected two main priorities of colonial administrations: maintaining order and increasing export production. They also reveal the lasting influence of Gladstonian norms of public finance emphasizing the minimalist role for the state advocated by the nineteenth-century Chancellor of the Exchequer William Ewart Gladstone. Substantial expenditure on general administration, the military, and police forces was needed to maintain British control in the face of African resistance, and investment in infrastructure. Colonial railways, roads, and ports reduced transaction costs and facilitated rapid growth in export production, which in turn increased revenue from the two main taxes levied by colonial governments: customs tariffs and poll taxes. The structure and development of both types of tax in different colonies is examined in detail.

Keywords: exports; infrastructure; railways; Gladstone; customs tariffs; trade taxes; public spending

Chapter.  11189 words.  Illustrated.

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