[VIRTUAL] Economic History Workshop - Laura Channing

Economic History Workshop
Event date: 
April 21, 2020 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Laura Channing
University of Cambridge
Seminar Series: 
Economic History Workshop
Co-Sponsored by: 
Julius Rabinowitz Center for Finance and Public Policy


"Internal Inequalities: Taxpayers, Taxation and Expenditure in a Composite Colonial State, c. 1890-1937"

Laura Channing, University of Cambridge

There will be a pre-circulated paper for this workshop. To receive a copy of the pre-circulated paper and the Zoom meeting information, email Robert Yee at ryee@princeton.edu.

Despite its founding as a settlement of freed slaves, Sierra Leone has conventionally been categorised as a ‘peasant-export’ and ‘non-settler’ colony. While arguably no colony is truly represented by these abstract categories, Sierra Leone is particularly significant. A century of multi-ethnic settler self-government on the coast created a deeply different society to that which was annexed in 1896. By 1900 Sierra Leone consisted of three legally and demographically distinct regions, making its characterisation as a ‘peasant-export’ colony, ignoring complex internal inequalities and a black urban settler population, particularly problematic. This chapter uses sources on tax assessment, collection and expenditure to argue that these internal inequalities underpinned multiple experiences of being a colonial taxpayer. Pre-existing inequality between ‘protected peoples’ in the interior, subjects under local administrative boards in the Colony, and municipal citizens in Freetown, had an independent influence on both tax structure and expenditure. The ringfencing of settler tax revenue to specific areas, redistributive only at an internal level, bears some resemblance to the colonies of white settlement, although here in an urban, multi-ethnic environment. The differences of the incorporation of Freetown, the Colony and the Protectorate into the colonial state underpinned different categories and experiences of colonial fiscal subjecthood.

Robert Yee
Area of Interest: 
Economic History
19th Century
20th Century