The Colonial Roots of Land Distribution: Geography, Factor Endowments or Institutions


Land inequality is one of the crucial underpinnings of long-run persistent wealth and asset inequality. This article assesses the colonial roots of land inequality from a comparative perspective. The evolution of land inequality is analysed in a cross-colonial multivariate regression framework complemented by an in-depth comparative case study of three former British colonies: Malaysia, Sierra Leone, and Zambia. The main conclusion is that the literature tends to overemphasize the role of geography and to underestimate the role of pre-colonial institutions in shaping the colonial political economic context in which land is (re)distributed from natives to colonial settlers.