RHI Seminar: Kleoniki Alexopoulou & Dacíl Juif (Wageningen University)

Organised by Rural and Environmental History

Tue 23 June 2015 12:30 to 14:00

Venue Leeuwenborch, gebouwnummer 201
Room C68

The three-dimensional reality of Portuguese Mozambique (1890s-1970s): initial conditions, labour systems and fiscal capacity


The African continent has been divided by historians as Samir Amin (1972) into three different “macro-regions of colonial influence”: Africa of the colonial trade or peasant economy, Africa of the concession-owning companies and Africa of the labour reserves. The emergence of either economic system mostly stems from the initial local conditions. Interestingly, Mozambique encompassed all three different ”macro-regions” in one sole colony. In this paper we assess how colonial institutions developed according to the local conditions by analysing the case of the fiscal system in this Portuguese colony. Focussing on one country has the advantage over cross country comparisons that we keep the metropolitan identity constant. For our analysis we construct a new dataset, based mainly on the statistical yearbooks and national accounts of Mozambique as well as on labour reports, found at the historical archives of Portugal and the national archives of South Africa. These sources allow us to assess the amount of direct taxes raised per capita on a district level between the 1930s and the 1970s. We find that initial conditions such as geography and pre-colonial labour systems were exploited by the colonial government, and the latter were probably also reinforced during colonial rule. In the southern part of the Portuguese colony, the cash wages earned by migrant labourers working in the South African mines, led to more extensive extraction of direct taxes and the monetisation of the economy. Here, the administration invested in a more sophisticated system of direct tax collection and control of migration. In the less monetized central (concession) and northern (peasant) areas, forced labour systems were set in place that allowed reducing state expenditures and maximising profits of private enterprises, which in turn paid taxes. Also, population density and urbanization, as well as ports have a positive effect on fiscal capacity.

More information:

Kleoniki Alexopoulou

Dacíl Juif