Discussion paper

DP16176 Fiscal Development under Colonial and Sovereign Rule

This paper explores differences in the making of a ‘modern’ fiscal state under colonial and sovereign rule. Focusing on African and Asian colonies (1820–1970) and their respective European metropoles, it argues that while the introduction of ‘modern’ taxes was part of an imperial diffusion process of fiscal reforms, these new taxes were embedded in a distinctly colonial political, social and economic logic. In contrast to the imperial metropoles, where ‘modern’ taxes built on organically grown tax bases, fiscal ‘modernity’ and ‘tradition’ co-existed in a dualistic system in the colonies. The comparison of fiscal development under colonial and sovereign rule helps to move beyond the Eurocentric bias in the historical tax literature and develop a more global theory of fiscal modernization.


Frankema, E and M van Waijenburg (2021), ‘DP16176 Fiscal Development under Colonial and Sovereign Rule‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16176. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16176