The ‘Empire Effect’ at ground level: Sovereign debt and economic development in Liberia and Sierra Leone, 1871-1914
On Friday, January 16th, Dr. Leigh Gardner of The London School of Economics and Political Science will give a Seminar at 10.00-12.00 hrs, followed by a Masterclass at 13.00-16.00 hrs.
Recent research has speculated that the methods of financial management in the British Empire lowered the costs of borrowing for colonial territories in the period up to 1914. This paper uses a comparative study of two African countries, one colonized and one independent, to examine the operation of the empire effect at ground level. Liberia and Sierra Leone both originated in the settlement of freed slaves in West Africa in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, but while Sierra Leone remained a British colony, Liberia declared its independence in 1847. It finds that while British officials struggled to enforce financial rules in the colonies, three measures facilitated more productive borrowing by Sierra Leone during the pre-war period: currency stability, restriction of debt levels according to recurrent revenue, and the more successful earmarking of borrowed funds. These differences were linked to a growing gap in the expansion of export production between the two countries.
Dr Gardner is Assistant Professor of Economic History at the London School of Economics and a Research Fellow in African Economic History at the University of Stellenbosch. Her research focuses on the economic history of Africa and the British Empire. She is particularly interested in the monetary and fiscal systems of sub-Saharan Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and in comparative research which places African countries in a global context. Her current research in this area includes projects on fiscal decentralization in British Africa (with Jutta Bolt), the development of fiscal institutions in Southern Africa (with Johan Fourie), the impact of the collapse of the gold standard in World War I on African monetary systems, and patterns of development at low levels of income, comparing Africa to Europe (with Stephen Broadberry). She is also beginning work on a project comparing the development of independent countries in Africa with their colonized neighbours to distinguish the effects of colonialism from more general constraints on development faced by peripheral countries before World War II.
More information on Dr. Leigh Gardner can be found here.