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Transplanted Development – how colonial bureaucrats shaped the political and economic trajectories of former British colonies

Friday, January 27, 2023, 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm


How can good governance and state capacity be established in states lacking them? The received view among many scholars and practitioners - often implicit but occasionally explicit too - is that poor nations should simply emulate the rich ones, and "import" their institutions. However, experience shows that such transplantation rarely works. It often produces the illusion of reform, with few of its practical benefits.

I regard agency an important but omitted element in this question. At least since the Meiji Restoration, we know that bureaucrats have central roles in designing and implementing reforms and institutions. My work investigates another period of intensive – and sometimes hastened - institutional reforms: the last years of British colonial rule. I present two ongoing projects in which I use biographical material of 20,000 senior colonial officials who worked across 40 colonies to reveal their roles in shaping the economic and constitutional trajectories of the former colonies in which they worked.



After studying economics and political science, Valentin Seidler worked for over ten years with the International Red Cross in Africa, Central Europe, Asia and in Brussels. He began an academic career in 2011 at the Institute for International Development at the University of Vienna. From 2014 to 2015, Seidler was a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Other research stays included the Universities of Warwick and Groningen and the International Research Center for Cultural Studies (IFK) in Vienna. He has led several research projects among them Project VOICES that recorded interviews of and collected biographical material from over 100 former British colonial officers. Valentin Seidler is a Research Fellow at the International Relations Department at the CEU in Vienna. His ongoing work is financed by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).… 

Meeting ID: 950 7372 7560
Passcode: 193862