Human Development under Colonial Rule in West Africa: Exploitation, Modernization and Legacies

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Business Management & Economics


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Oliver Vanden Eynde (2018) Trickle-Down Ethnic Politics: Drunk and Absent in the Kenya Police Force (1957-1970) in American Economic Journal: Economic Policy

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Marcel Fafchamps (2015) Referral and Job Performance: Evidence from the Ghana Colonial Army in Economic Development and Cultural Change

Description Using data of more than 80,000 Africans recruited to the West African regiments of the Tirailleurs Sénégalais 1880-1960, we studied the development of mean heights of African men as a measure of living standard. After a battery of tests studying the representativeness of our sample, we find that forest districts of birth of Côte d'Ivoire and of Benin (somewhat less robustly) exhibit a modest positive height trend. In other areas, heights have stagnated. This suggests a rather bleak development of African living standards under the French Empire.

The data collected in this project was also used to study the rise of ethnic politics in Kenya after independence. Ethnic politics affected the Police Force in that officers from the ruling ethnic group changed their behaviour and misbehaved more. We argue that the misfunciton of the polic represents a cost to society which cannot be addressed unless ethnic politics at the national level will change.
Exploitation Route We developed a database of a measure of living standard at a very disaggregated level that can be applied quite flexibly in other research questions, particularly for issues of long-run development.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description Black and White living standards in South African history
Amount R 100,000 (ZAR)
Organisation Elite Fund South Africa 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country South Africa
Start 09/2014 
End 09/2016
Description Histoire coloniale et Développement en Afrique
Amount € 250,000 (EUR)
Organisation National Agency for Research 
Sector Public
Country France
Start 10/2011 
End 03/2015
Title Men under Arms in Colonial Africa: Tirailleurs Senegalais 1880-1960 
Description The data set contains information of 130,000 individuals recruited to the French colonial army between 1880 and 1960 including date and place of enlistment, place of birth & residence, age, marital status, education, ethnicity, occupation prior to enlistment, and height. The geographic coordinates of the place of birth was extracted for 75% of the sample. Geographic coverage: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Description Histoire coloniale et Développement en Afrique 
Organisation Paris School of Economics
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This project was inspired by the ESRC project but proposed using administrative data from French Blue Books. We intend to join the two data bases and combine the evidence.
Start Year 2011
Description ERSA Workshop "GIS in History", East London, South Africa 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Increased interest in GIS applications from South African researchers.

Increased use of GIS at Stellenbosch University (South Africa)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
Description VoxEu Online publication 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact So far the webpage article was clicked by 8,000 individuals.

Increased exposure of the findings that colonial policies have a causal impact on literacy outcomes in Africa today.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014