Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Post-Colonial Hangover What Factor Made Colonization Worse for Some Countries?

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Post-Colonial Hangover What Factor Made Colonization Worse for Some Countries?

Article excerpt

It's hard to find countries that are nostalgic for colonialism, at least among those that were on the receiving end of it. At the same time, it's hard to escape the impression that some countries had a worse time of it than others.

The former British Empire includes rising power India and Africa's most stable and prosperous countries -- Botswana, Ghana and South Africa. France's former dependencies in Africa and Southeast Asia, from Ivory Coast to Cambodia, don't seem to have fared nearly as well in the post-colonial era.

Some, such as historian Niall Ferguson, have even argued for the positive legacy of the British Empire, seeing the Pax Britannica as an era not merely of imperialist expansion but also of "spreading liberal values in terms of free markets, the rule of law, and ultimately representative government."

But beyond anecdotal observations, is there any evidence that the type of colonialism determined the way former colonies turned out? Were the bloody post-independence civil wars of Angola and Mozambique, for example, a legacy of Portuguese colonialism, or were competition for resources and the Cold War more to blame? How would the recent histories of Algeria and Vietnam have differed if France had let them go peacefully?

Stanford University Ph.D. candidate Alexander Lee, with professor Kenneth Schultz, looked at Cameroon, a rare country that includes large regions colonized by separate powers, Britain and France, and then united after independence in 1960. The only country with a similar history is Somalia, where it is understandably difficult to get economic data after more than three decades of war.

The results? There may be something to that British-legacy theory: Mr. Lee and Mr. …

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