My research program lies at the intersection of economic history and development. In the past, institutional reforms in developing countries have involved a degree of copying successful solutions from more advanced economies. Japanese reforms during the Meiji period are a well konwn example. The introduction of the Novo Mercado, a special listing segment at the São Paulo Stock Exchange that emulates Germany’s Neuer Markt, is a more recent example. We cannot explain the considerable variation in the success of such reforms, but we know they impact impact growth and development.

Ongoing research projects investigate the role of individual actors involved in institutional reforms. I am particularly interested in the identities of colonial officers towards the end of colonialism, when colonies prepared for independence.

I approach the issue from two angles. First, I have collected the biographical data of over 14,000 British colonial officers as a visitor at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton from 2014 to 2015. Preliminary findings, which were presented at Harvard Law School in June 2015, indicate a robust relationship between the composition of the colonial administration in the 1950s and 1960s and modern-day institutional quality.
I have also started as series of interviews with surviving colonial officers. Project VOICES systematically archives and publish the personal histories of over 100 British colonial officers. The combined research program has been submitted for financing to the European Research Council (ERC Starting Grant) in October 2018. 

Ongoing work

Ongoing and planned projects exploit the new data. In “Bureaucratic expertise and sector-level economic performance: Evidence from the British Empire”, joint work with Guo Xu (Berkeley), we aim to explain the sector-level economic performance of former colonies by looking at the extended presence of former colonial servants after a colony gains independence.

When knowledge and practices are transferred within multinational organizations, most research focuses on the recipients’ experience (Sanders and Tuschke 2007, Kostova and Roth 2002), giving little attention to the role of the agents who do the transferring. “In search of the perfect fit: Knowledge transfers, experimentation and economic performance”, joint work with Robbert Maseland (Groningen), takes a close look at agents who effectively adapt the transferred knowledge and practices to fit the recipients.

A third paper will investigate the “Internal labour market inside a large, international organization – the British Empire”. This joint work with Jesus Crespo-Cuaresma (WU Wien) is still at an early stage. Following the influential work of Baker et al. (1994), we use the available personnel records to reconstruct each step in the career paths of 20,500 British mid-level and senior colonial officers from their entry positions until retirement.

Peer-reviewed Articles

2018: “Copying informal institutions: the role of British colonial officers during the decolonization of British Africa“, Journal of Institutional Economics, First View article. This publication has been financed by Austrian Science Fund (FWF J3848-G28).
Accepted manuscript / Data used in the article / Interviews used in the article.

2017: “Institutional copying in the 20th century: The role of 14,000 British colonial officers”, Schmollers Jahrbuch – Journal of Contextual Economics. This publication has been financed by Austrian Science Fund (FWF J3848-G28).

2016: “Colonial Bureaucrats, Institutional Transplants, and Development in the 20th Century“, in: Becker P. and Nellen. S. (eds), Administory. Zeitschrift für Verwaltungsgeschichte, 1 (2016): 155-172. This publication has been financed by Austrian Science Fund (FWF J3848-G28).

2015: The effect of shareholders’ agreement binding provisions on firm value: Evidence from Brazil (with Luiz Ricardo Kabbach de Castro and Marina Gelman), RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas55(3): 345-358 [in Portuguese].

I add an English translation to this paper. Please do not cite the translated version.

2014: “When do institutional transfers work? The relation between institutions, culture and the transplant effect: the case of Borno in north-eastern Nigeria,” Journal of Institutional Economics 10(3): 371-397. The paper was shortlisted for the 2015 Elinor Ostrom Award.

Monograph (PhD Thesis)

2011: “Colonial Legacy and Institutional Development – The Cases of Botswana and Nigeria“, ÖFSE Forum Series No 52, Austrian Research Foundation for International  Development (ÖFSE): Vienna.

Other Publications

2017: “Project VOICES – a status report“, The Overseas Pensioner, 114: 20-21. This publication has been financed by Austrian Science Fund (FWF J3848-G28).

2017: ” Overseas officers and development today – an interim report”, The Overseas Pensioner, 113: 18-20. This publication has been financed by Austrian Science Fund (FWF J3848-G28).

2016: “Overseas officers and development today. How your personal account makes a difference,” The Overseas Pensioner, 112: 27-31. This publication has been financed by Austrian Science Fund (FWF J3848-G28).

Working Papers

2012: “When do institutional transplant work“, working paper presented at the 2012 EAEPE in Krakow.

2011: “The role of informal institutions in building the institutional framework of an African state: The case of the Kanuri in Nigeria“, working paper presented at ISNIE 2011, Stanford.

2010: “Why did Botswana end up with good institutions: The role of culture and colonial rule“, working paper presented at ISNIE 2010, Stirling UK.

All publications from 2011 to 2014 have been financed with the support of the Austrian Science Found (Project AP23424-G11). Publications from 2016 to 2018 are financed by an Erwin Schrödinger Grant (FWF J3848-G28).