Madeline WOKER (Columbia University): Fiscal justice in the colonies? The politics of taxation in the French colonial empire 1900-1939
Contribution to the Summer university “Cultures and knowledge of economy (18th-20th c.)” at the GHI Paris, June 21-24, 2016.
This dissertation examines how debates about taxation in France’s overseas possessions influenced colonial and domestic politics. In case studies on Algeria, Indochina, and French West Africa (AOF), it explores how colonial officials, colonists and indigenous actors debated the fiscal order. Taxation in the French colonial empire remains a relatively unexplored subject, yet taxation was an important instrument of colonial domination as well as an essential survival condition for French colonies. Taxation and expenditure patterns very much shaped the economic organization of colonies and were an integrative part of the exploitative structure of the world economy in the age of imperialism. Their implementation was eminently political and carried implications extending beyond immediate economic justifications as they often sparked passionate debates and had a profound influence on social and economic life. The dissertation will start by analyzing the production of colonial economic knowledge about taxation as well as French metropolitan debates on the financial autonomy and capacity for self-taxation of French colonies. It will then provide an overview of the tax architecture in three overseas possessions: Algeria, Indochina and West Africa. Finally, it will trace the evolution of debates about inequality, fairness and taxation across the metropole and these three distinct parts of the French colonial empire. It will focus most particularly on the debates wrought by the Empire’s war effort.
Madeline Woker is a PhD student in International and Global History at Columbia University in New York. In June 2014, she obtained an MPhil in Modern European History from the University of Cambridge. She holds also a Double Master in European Affairs from London School of Economics and Political Science and Sciences Po Paris.