Legacies of Islamic Rule in Africa: Colonial Responses and Contemporary Development

Vincent Bauer, Melina R. Platas, Jeremy M. Weinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colonial rule had long-lasting effects on economic and political development. However, colonial policies and investments varied across and within colonial territories, often in response to local geographic and political conditions. We argue that the religious basis of authority in pre-colonial societies was an important political factor shaping the colonial response in Africa. In particular, we argue the presence of Islamic rule affected long-term economic development through its impact on the investments made by colonial administrators and missionaries. Focusing on historical kingdoms in Africa, we find that areas governed by Islamic states in the pre-colonial period experience higher infant mortality, fewer years of education, and lower density of nightlights in the contemporary period in comparison to areas governed by traditional or Christian kingdoms or stateless areas. The evidence suggests that these long-run effects of Islamic rule are better explained by the location of missionaries and weak penetration of the colonial administration than by the influence of Islamic beliefs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105750
JournalWorld Development
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Africa
  • Islamic rule
  • economic development
  • education
  • health
  • historical institutions
  • missionaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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