LCIL Friday Lecture: '"Funk Money"'"Funk Money:": The End of Empires, the Expansion of Tax Havens, and Decolonization as an Economic and Financial Event' - Prof Vanessa Ogle, University of Berkeley


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Lecture summary: This talk explores the history of decolonization from an economic and financial perspective. Through the examples of the French and British Empires, it shows that European settlers, officials, and other investors from North Africa and and East Africa in particular, removed assets from the colonial world upon decolonization. Yet when moving funds out of the imperial world, they often repatriated capital to a system of offshore tax havens in places such as Switzerland and the Bahamas rather than sending it to high-tax metropolitan countries like France and Britain. Decolonization thus fueled the expansion of tax havens that was taking place during these decades. This process of liquidating assets and removing capital moreover had important implications for the post-independence growth potential and development trajectory of newly independent so-called developing countries. The talk further asks what kind of effects such instances of capital flight from the colonial world had on the broader political economy of the 1950s-1970s both in the former colonial world and in metropolitan centers as well as the United States. Vanessa Ogle is associate professor of modern European history at the University of California - Berkeley, where she works on the history of capitalism, political economy, empire and decolonization, and legal history. She obtained her PhD from Harvard University and taught at the University of Pennsylvania before coming to Berkeley. Her first book, The Global Transformation of Time: 1870-1950, was published by Harvard University Press in 2015. Her current book project is Archipelago Capitalism: A History of the Offshore World, 1920s-1980s. It is the first archivally-based account of how the contemporary landscape of offshore tax havens, money markets, and flags of convenience shipping registries came into existence, with lasting implications for the rise of inequality throughout the twentieth century. Articles based off the project have appeared in the American Historical Review and most recently, in Past & Present.

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