School of Economics and Finance

A Comparative Word-Systems Analysis of Settler Colonies in the Hispanic and Anglo Realms

Date: 18 May 2012 Time: 12.30 pm
Venue: Rutherford House, Level 12 Boardroom, 23 Lambton Quay, Wellington
Speaker: Geoff Bertram, Victoria University of Wellington

In conjunction with the Business, Economic, Accounting history Network (BEAN)


Settler colonies are distinct from colonies of exploitation, in that they extracted rents from the metropolitan economy rather than vice versa. Their historical trajectories over the past century started from a shared high level of prosperity at the end of the nineteenth century, the culmination of a strongly convergent growth process driven initially by mass migration and then by a staple-export boom. After 1930, however, the settler colonies diverged. The Hispanic exemplars – Argentina, Uruguay and Chile – stalled, while the USA pulled away to become an industrial superpower in its own right. In the middle of the bunch Angus Maddison’s other Anglo-Saxon “neo-Europes” – Australia, New Zealand, and Canada – began to diverge from each other after mid-century. The paper reviews the growth record of these seven economies and asks to what extent their divergence was attributable to internal institutional differences, as distinct from the effect of global forces at work in the evolving world system and different policy responses to those forces. The conclusion is that world-system forces produce convergence only at particular times and under particular conditions, while at other times longer-run historic path dependencies seem to prevail.