Funk Money: The End of Empire and the Expansion of Tax Havens, 1950s-1960s

Vanessa Ogle, University of California, Berkeley

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 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.