From Representation to Autocracy: The Many Fiscal Constitutions of the British Empire, 1790-1960

Leigh Gardner, London School of Economics

The paper draws on a series of surveys conducted by the British government on the constitutional structure of its colonies. Building on a growing literature on colonial fiscal capacity, it focuses particularly on the fundamental issue of who had the power to tax, and what taxpayers could and did demand in return, and from whom. In the early nineteenth century, the majority of colonies had local assemblies comprised of representatives elected locally (albeit by a restricted pool of voters). By the late nineteenth century, most colonies were governed under what was known as Crown Colony rule, in which laws were made by a Legislative Council on which the majority of members were British officials. Within these two categories, however, there were considerable variations in who had control over decisions about money and taxation. The paper links the survey of changing constitutional form to data on the revenue and expenditure of each colony, providing a more robust basis for the categorisations of colonial institutions and shedding light on the diversity in post-colonial economic performance amongst former colonies.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 131. Constitutions and Representation