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Colonialism and rural inequality in Sierra Leone: an egalitarian experiment

Journal article
Authors Stefania Galli
Klas Rönnbäck
Published in European Review of Economic History
ISSN 1361-4916
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Economic History
Department of Economy and Society
Language en
Keywords Colonialism, Inequality, Wealth, Africa, Egalitarianism, Frontier society, Settler colony, Sierra Leone, West Africa, Nineteenth century
Subject categories Economic History


We analyze the level of inequality in rural Sierra Leone in the early colonial period. Previous research has suggested that the colony was established under highly egalitarian ideals. We examine whether these ideals also are reflected in the real distribution of wealth in the colony. We employ a newly assembled dataset extracted from census data in the colony in 1831. The results show that rural Sierra Leone exhibited one of the most equal distributions of wealth so far estimated for any preindustrial rural society

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