Marlous van Waijenburg
Field: Modern Europe [Global economic history]
Keywords: Sub-Saharan Africa, colonialism, economic growth, living standards, taxation
Topic: "Financing the African State. The Development and Transformation of African Fiscal Systems in the Long Twentieth Century"
Advisor: Joel Mokyr
Marlous van Waijenburg is a comparative economic historian interested in the historical roots of the global economic divide, and specifically in the economic legacies of colonialism. The main regional focus of her work is on Sub-Saharan Africa, and is methodologically situated at the intersection of global history, economics, and political economy.
Marlous received both her B.A. and M.A. from Utrecht University, and has been visiting student in the economics department of Washington University in St. Louis under the supervision of Prof. Douglass C. North. Her M.A. thesis, titled Living Standards in British Africa in a Comparative Perspective, 1880-1945. Is Poverty Destiny?, was awarded 'best historical M.A. thesis' by the International Institute for Social History and national newspaper 'de Volkskrant', and 'best MA thesis in the Humanities' awarded by Utrecht University. The article version of her M.A. thesis (joint with Ewout Frankema), was published in the Journal of Economic History in 2012, and recently received two other prizes (see below).
Her dissertation, tentatively titled "Financing the African State: Development and Transformations of Fiscal Systems in the Long Twentieth Century", compares state capacity building in Africa through the lens of taxation. In the next two years (2014-2016), she will be a Presidential Fellow at Northwestern University.
(2014) "Metropolitan Blueprints of Colonial Taxation? Comparative Fiscal Development in British and French Africa, 1880-1940." Journal of African History 55(3): 371-400 (with Ewout Frankema)
The historical and social science literature is divided about the importance of metropolitan blueprints of colonial rule for the development of colonial states. We exploit historical records of colonial state finances to explore the importance of metropolitan identity on the comparative development of fiscal institutions in British and French Africa. Taxes constituted the financial backbone of the colonial state and were vital to the state building efforts of colonial governments. A quantitative comparative perspective shows that pragmatic responses to varying local conditions can easily be mistaken for specific metropolitan blueprints of colonial governance and that under comparable local circumstances the French and British operated in remarkably similar ways.
(2012) "Structural impediments to African growth? New evidence from real wages in British Africa, 1880-1965." Journal of Economic History 72(4): 895-926 (with Ewout Frankema)
- Arthur Cole Prize for "best article in the Journal of Economic History 2012-2013"
- Wageningen School of Social Sciences Publication Award for "best article in the Social Sciences"
Recent literature on the historical determinants of African poverty has emphasized structural impediments to African growth, such as adverse geographical conditions, weak institutions, or ethnic heterogeneity. But has African poverty been a persistent historical phenomenon? This article checks such assumptions against the historical record. We push African income estimates back in time by presenting urban unskilled real wages for nine British African colonies (1880-1965). We find that African real wages were well above subsistence level and that they rose significantly over time. Moreover, in West Africa and Mauritius real wage levels were considerably higher than those in Asia.