Convict Labor and the Costs of Colonial Infrastructure: Evidence from Prisons in British Nigeria, 1920-1938

Archibong, Belinda; Obikili, Nonso

This paper studies the role of labor coercion in fiscal capacity building in Europe’s African colonies. We estimate the value gained from labor coercion and compare this to other colonial expenditure using evidence from British colonial Nigeria. We use datasets on wages and prisoners from 1920 through 1938 to examine the evolution of value gained from labor coercion during the period. Our results show that coerced convict labor made up a significant part of colonial expenditures. The results provide insight on the costs of colonial infrastructure and the effects of the colonial revenue imperative on African populations.

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Economics (Barnard College)
Published Here
March 1, 2019


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