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date: 13 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on the impact of Spanish and British colonialism for state development and economic and social performance in the Americas. In nearly all cases, the immediate effect of colonialism was devastating for precolonial societies. Out of this, however, came sovereign states with varying levels of capacity for achieving human and economic development. To explain these variations, we test a neo-modernization theory of colonialism versus an historical-institutional theory of colonialism. Neo-modernization theory posits that more colonialism is associated with higher levels of development. By contrast, the historical-institutional theory suggests that the effect of colonialism depends on the institutions of the colonizing nation. While higher levels of colonial settlement are associated with better development for the British colonies, the same was not true for the Spanish colonies. We explain these outcomes by exploring institutional differences between Britain and Spain at the time of their colonial projects in the New World.

Keywords: colonialism, Great Britain, Spain, state development, the Americas, state transformation, state history, neo-modernization theory, historical-institutional theory

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