I'm a grad student trying to conduct research, and my project depends on finding a dataset which enumerates taxation and revenue by colonial-era and post-colonial governments within the early 20th century. The British colonial blue books offer a lot of good primary source data for Africa specifically, but this is somewhat lacking on its own. Given how distinct colonialism in Africa was from colonialism elsewhere (with African colonialism focusing more on extraction than settlement), failing to address cases outside of Africa would be pretty flawed. I also can't limit myself exclusively to British colonies, since there's a wealth of literature claiming that the colonial strategies employed by the British fostered distinct institutions from the colonialism of other metropolitan nations.

In short, I need a large dataset of state revenue expenditures, the composition of those expenditures (e.g. how much was spent on military, how much on healthcare, how much on education, etc.), and taxation within the early 20th century. This should preferably cover both colonial and non-colonial governments during that time period.

I'm more than willing to accept a dataset which covers only part of these specifications. I'd be very grateful for any help. Thanks.

EDIT: I assumed this was obvious, but "colonial govts" here refers to the govts of colonial dependencies that remained under European control at the start of the 20th century (e.g. French West Africa, Indochine, British African colonies, etc.).

  • Our world in data?? I might also point out that "colonialism" in the early 20th century is quite distinct from colonialism in prior centuries.
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 12:18
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like the historical taxation data covers only a handful of european nations. I need data for colonial governments. Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 16:47
  • What precisely do you mean by "colonial governments" and "early 20th century"?. The various Dominions became such as: Canada 1867, Australia 1901, New Zealand and Newfoundland in 1907, and Union of South Africa in 1910. With such status they became financially independent of the United kingdom, fully managing their own revenues expenses, currency and finances. Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 7:21
  • I'm referring to the colonies that were still held at that point: French West Africa, Indochina, British holdings in Africa, etc. Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 10:07
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    @LysanderCox: Please edit all clarifications into the question itself. Comments are ephemeral, and subject to deletion or chat-migration at any time, and without warning. Questions must stand independent of them. Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 16:22

1 Answer 1


International Historical Statistics from Palgrave Macmillan might be worth a look. But overall I suspect it's unlikely that you'll find a pre-existing dataset that covers your needs. Ewout Frankema has published a few relevant studies like this and this and he is pulling his data directly from the Blue Books.

  • This is a comment not an answer. it suggests a possible location of an answer, but is not an answer because (1) author has not verified the usefulness of said resource; and (2) it's a link-only answer, and thus defined by site TOS as not being an answer. Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 16:25
  • Funny you mention Frankema. He was actually what motivated me to seek this data. Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 16:38
  • Do you know of anything similar to blue books for french colonies in the same period? Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 18:20
  • On French colonies Frankema has co-authored with van Waijenburg and they list the equivalent sources: ewoutfrankema.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/…
    – Brian Z
    Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 18:25

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