The Magna Carta in Kenya? Law, the Power to Tax, and the Institutional Legacies of British Colonialism

Leigh Gardner, London School of Economics

In 1938, the Earl of Erroll, refused to pay the income tax levied by the colonial administration in Kenya. He argued that the colonial administration had no right to impose such a tax without an elected majority on the Legislative Council. Lord Erroll, like others before him, lost the case owing to a century of legal precedents which had removed the link betwen taxation and representation for colonial governments, on the grounds that colonies had different institutional requirements than the metropole. This paper uses Erroll’s defeat to chart the evolution of the fiscal contract between colonial states and taxpayers, contributing to wider debates about the origins and legacies of colonial institutions. It challenges one strand of this literature, on the origins of colonial legal systems, by arguing that imperial governments never tried to impose their own legal systems. Rather, the uneven institutional inheritance of post-independence governments in Africa was the product of deliberate imperial policy.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 117. Cases of Colonialism and Development