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Colonizer Identity and Trade in Africa: Were the British More Favourable to Free Trade?

Federico Tadei ()
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Federico Tadei: Universitat de Barcelona

No 2020/399, UB Economics Working Papers from Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB School of Economics

Abstract: It has often been claimed that the structure of export trade between Africa and Europe during the colonial period depended on the colonizer identity, with the British relying on free trade and the French employing instead monopsonistic policies. Yet, due to the lack of systematic data on colonial trade, this claim has so far remained untested. In this paper, I use recently available data on export prices from African colonies to estimate monopsonistic profit margins for British and French trading companies. The results challenge the view of the British colonizers as champions of free trade. The level of profit margins was determined much more by the local conditions in Africa than by the identity of the colonial power. The British did not necessarily rely on free trade more than the French and did so only when a stronger control of trade was not a viable option.

Keywords: Africa; Trade Colonization; Development; Institutions; Market-Power. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: F1 N17 O43 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 37 pages
Date: 2020
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-afr, nep-dev, nep-his and nep-int
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