Economics serving society

« Un empire bon marché. Histoire et économie politique de la colonisation française, XIXe-XXIe siècle », Denis Cogneau

In his latest book, Denis Cogneau reviews fifteen years of statistical and economic research on French colonisation.

Find the page dedicated to the book on the website of Seuil Editions.

Extract from the back cover:


In the 19th century, France embarked on the colonisation of entire countries in Africa and Asia. What were the motivations and methods of this policy? How were the dominated societies disrupted, and what economic and social development did they experience? Is decolonisation complete today? “A Cheap Empire” offers new answers to these controversial questions.
Thanks to extensive archival work and statistical analysis, the book describes with great precision the colonial states and their functioning - notably through taxation, military recruitment, capital flows and inequalities. It shows that the empire cost the metropolis little until the wars of independence, and that French capital did not flow to the colonies. The ’civilising mission’ that the French Republic had set itself did not lead to the development of the occupied countries, and it was rather a regime that was both violent and ambiguous that was established there. In fact, the colonial regime mainly benefited a small minority of French colonists and capitalists. As for the nationalist elites, they most often continued an authoritarian and inegalitarian state after independence. By focusing on the evolution of colonised societies and their future, Denis Cogneau makes a major contribution and sheds new light on imperialism, from yesterday to today.

The author

Denis Cogneau is a professor at the Paris School of Economics, director of research at the Institute for research and development (IRD), director of studies at the EHESS and associate researcher at the Centre for economic research and applications (CEPREMAP) and DIAL.
He is a specialist in the political economy of development, the history of development and structural change, and inequalities and development.