British Imperialism Revisited: The Cost and Benefits of "Anglobalization"

Date Published:

Apr 1, 2003


Economic historians continue to debate the causes of the 'great divergence of economic' fortunes which has characterized the last half millennium. In this debate, the role of colonialism—and specifically the British Empire—must needs play a crucial role. If geography, climate and disease provide a sufficient explanation for the widening of global inequalities, then the policies and institutions exported by British imperialism were of marginal importance;4 the agricultural, commercial and industrial technologies developed in Europe from 1700 onwards were bound to work better in temperate regions with good access to sea routes. However, if the key to economic success lies in the adoption of legal, financial and political institutions favourable to technical innovation and capital accumulation—regardless of location, mean temperature and longevity—then it matters a great deal that by the end of the nineteenth century a quarter of the world was under British rule.


Also Development Research Institute Working Paper Series No.2, RR# 2003-02.
Download PDF