Endogenous Processes of Colonial Settlement: The Success and Failure of European Settler Farming in Sub-Saharan Africa


This paper comments on studies that aim to quantify the long-term economic effects of historical European settlement across the globe. We argue for the need to properly conceptualize ‘colonial settlement’ as an endogenous development process shaped by the interaction between prospective settlers and indigenous peoples. We conduct three comparative case studies in West, East and Southern Africa, showing that the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of colonial settlement critically depended on colonial government policies arranging European farmer’s access to local land, but above all, local labour resources. These policies were shaped by the clashing interests of African farmers and European planters, in which colonial governments did not necessarily, and certainly not consistently, abide to settler demands, as is often assumed.