Redistributive Colonialism: Caste, Conflict and Development in India



Alexander Lee, CDDRL

Date and Time

December 5, 2013 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM



Open to Stanford faculty, students, staff, and visiting scholars.

RSVP required by 5PM December 04.


Encina Ground Floor Conference Room


Prior work on colonialism has shown that colonial institutions can influence modern developments outcomes, but has not examined the distributional effect of colonialism within societies. This chapter examines how the strategic goals of the colonial state altered the distribution of wealth across Indian caste groups, and how these differences have persisted into the post-independence period. Colonial administrators were only likely to transfer formal or informal power to the precolonial elite if they were secure militarily. This theory is tested using an empirical strategy that uses European wars as an exogenous determinate of colonial military stress. In areas annexed at times of European war, precolonial elites have low levels of wealth today relative to other groups, while in areas annexed at times of peace in Europe precolonial elites retain a more substantial economic advantage. The results highlight the variable impact of colonialism within societies, the strategic nature of colonial policy choices, and the long term consequences of colonial conquest. 

Speaker bio:

Alexander Lee's research focuses on the historical factors governing the success or failure of political institutions, particularly in South Asia and other areas of the developing world. His dissertation examined the ways in which colonialism changed the distribution of wealth in Indian society, and the ways in which these changes affected the development of caste identities. Additional research areas include the study of colonialism and European expansion in a cross- national perspective, and the causes of political violence, especially terrorism. His work has been published in World Politics and the Quarterly Journal of Political Science. Alex earned his PhD from Stanford in 2013. More information on his work can be found on his website:

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