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Joint Online Seminar: State-Building Lessons from the British Empire


16Sep 2020


  • ZOOM Webinar
  • Prof. Roger MYERSON, University of Chicago

After the frustration of recent state-building missions, we should ask why such interventions seemed less difficult in the era of colonial expansion. So this paper reviews the basic principles of British colonialism, not to condone its evils, but to understand how it was able to establish political order in so many different parts of the world. Before 1939, foreign state-building interventions were regularly managed by a decentralized team of plenipotentiary agents who specialized in fostering local political development. Since 1945, however, international assistance has generally worked with and through an officially recognized national government, implicitly supporting a centralization of power. This paper considers the corps of British colonial District Officers as a potential model for an international state-building agency which could help to repair failed states that export violence and suffering.


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