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Lineages of Despotism and Development

British Colonialism and State Power

Traditionally, social scientists have assumed that past imperialism hinders the future development prospects of colonized nations. Challenging this widespread belief, Matthew Lange argues in Lineages of Despotism and Development that countries once under direct British imperial control have developed more successfully than those that were ruled indirectly.

            Combining statistical analysis with in-depth case studies of former British colonies, this volume argues that direct rule promoted cogent and coherent states with high levels of bureaucratization and inclusiveness, which contributed to implementing development policy during late colonialism and independence. On the other hand, Lange finds that indirect British rule created patrimonial, weak states that preyed on their own populations. Firmly grounded in the tradition of comparative-historical analysis while offering fresh insight into the colonial roots of uneven development, Lineages of Despotism and Development will interest economists, sociologists, and political scientists alike.

260 pages | 9 line drawings, 20 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Economics and Business: Economics--Development, Growth, Planning

History: General History

Political Science: Comparative Politics

Sociology: Individual, State and Society


“Matthew Lange has produced an exceptional work of theoretical and methodological synthesis. He combines the insights of Peter Evans, Michael Mann, and Max Weber into a coherent and convincing explanation for the divergent impact of British colonialism on long-term human development. No one has mustered such an impressive array of qualitative and quantitative evidence to show that colonialism indeed mattered, and in fact mattered very much—not only for those who experienced British imperialism in their own lifetimes, but for their post-colonial descendants as well. With this book, Lange has established himself as a leading voice in the growing interdisciplinary debates on colonialism’s developmental legacies.”

Dan Slater, University of Chicago

“Here in this book is the best explanation of the colonial roots of effective and defective states among the former British colonies yet produced. Lange offers sound theoretical reasons for why ‘direct’ versus ‘indirect’ British rule might set countries down profoundly different paths of development. And his empirical assessment, which includes both case studies and statistical tests, is extremely persuasive.”

James Mahoney, Northwestern University

Table of Contents


1. Introduction: British Colonialism and Developmental Legacies

2. The Developmental Legacies of British Colonialism: A State-Centered Framework for Analysis

3. A Statistical Analysis of British Colonial Legacies

4. Mauritius: Direct Rule and Development

5. Sierra Leone: Indirect Rule and Despotism

6. Guyana: A Case of Despotism Despite Direct Rule

7. Botswana: A Case of Development Despite Indirect Rule

8. Comparing British Colonialism: Testing the Generalizability of Colonial State Legacies

9. Conclusion and Discussion




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