It is a truth nearly universally acknowledged that governments in Sub-Saharan Africa are despotic, corrupt and unable to effectively contribute to sustainable development. However, such bleak perceptions tend to be based on generalisations that are not sufficiently grounded in history or empirical observations.
In contrast, this thesis demonstrates the rich and diverse histories of modern states in Africa over the long 20th century. This is done by presenting novel data and analysis on taxation and development in four countries in francophone West Africa – Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger and Senegal – covering both the colonial and independent periods.
The evidence presented points to significant long-term growth of state capacity and development in the four countries, but also to their historical vulnerability and external dependence. In this way, the thesis makes a historically and empirically grounded contribution to our understanding of African states and development today.