Are former British colonies more developed than those colonized by other European powers?

Are former British colonies more developed than those colonized by other European powers?

Throughout history, various European countries, including Britain, France, Portugal, and Spain, have colonized different regions worldwide, leaving a significant impact on the territories they occupied in terms of culture, language, politics, and economy. However, there is a popular belief that countries colonized by Britain are generally more developed than those colonized by the Dutch, French, Portuguese, or Spanish.

However, assessing development is a complex task that requires analyzing several indicators. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is one of the most commonly used indicators of development that measures the average income per person in a given country. As of 2020, the top five countries with the highest GDP per capita are Qatar, Macao SAR, Luxembourg, Singapore, and Ireland. None of these countries, except Singapore, were directly colonized by the European powers mentioned earlier. Therefore, GDP per capita alone does not provide sufficient evidence to support or refute the claim that British colonies are more developed.

Singapore under British Rule |
Singapore under British Rule |

Another indicator of development is the Human Development Index (HDI), which measures a country's overall level of human development based on its citizens' health, education, and standard of living. According to the United Nations Development Programme's 2020 report, the top five countries in terms of HDI are Norway, Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, and Hong Kong SAR. Once again, only Hong Kong was directly colonized by the European power.

While some former British colonies have achieved high levels of development, others have struggled with poverty, inequality, and political instability. For instance, India, which was under British colonial rule for almost 200 years, has struggled with high levels of poverty, inequality, and social exclusion despite its economic growth in recent years. Similarly, Nigeria, which was also a British colony, has faced challenges such as corruption, ethnic tensions, and political instability.

Moreover, some former colonies under Dutch, French, Portuguese, or Spanish colonization have achieved significant progress in terms of economic growth, social development, and political stability. For instance, Singapore and Malaysia, both former British colonies, have achieved high levels of economic growth and social development, but so have former French colonies such as Tunisia and Morocco, and former Dutch colonies such as Indonesia.

In contrast, some former colonies of Portugal, such as Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau, have struggled with poverty, political instability, and underdevelopment. However, this cannot be solely attributed to their colonial history, as other factors such as corruption, civil war, and natural disasters have also played a significant role.

Angola under Portugal |
Angola under Portugal |


The impact of colonialism varied greatly across different regions and periods. For example, some scholars argue that British colonization in India had a negative impact on the country's economy, culture, and society, while others argue that it had some positive effects such as the introduction of modern infrastructure and education. Similarly, some argue that Dutch colonization in Indonesia was beneficial for the country's economic development, while others criticize the exploitation and oppression of the local population.

The different approaches to colonization adopted by the various European powers may have also influenced the long-term impact of colonization on the regions in question. For example, the Portuguese focused on establishing trading posts and exploiting natural resources, while the British established settler colonies and aimed to spread their culture and values. The French attempted to assimilate the local population and spread their language and culture.

Another factor that may have contributed to the differing levels of development among former colonies is the timing and duration of colonization. The longer a country was under colonial rule, the greater the impact of colonization on its economy, politics, and society. Therefore, countries that were colonized earlier and for longer periods may have had more time to develop their economies and institutions.

Another factor that may have contributed to the differing levels of development among former colonies is the level of resistance put up by the local populations. In some cases, colonizers faced fierce resistance from the locals, leading to protracted conflicts that could significantly affect the colonizers' ability to exert control and influence. This resistance could also lead to the destruction of infrastructure and other resources, hampering development efforts even after the colonizers left.

Morocco |
Morocco |


Language is another important aspect to consider. Many former colonies of European powers have retained their colonizers' languages as the official language or one of the official languages, which can have both positive and negative effects. On the one hand, using a widely spoken language can facilitate communication, trade, and access to international markets. On the other hand, it can also lead to the marginalization of local languages and cultures, which can have long-term negative effects on social cohesion and identity.

It is also essential to recognize the role of international institutions and the global economic system in shaping development outcomes. Former colonies that have been able to establish close ties with international organizations, attract foreign investment, and participate in the global economy have generally experienced higher levels of economic growth and development. However, this also raises questions about the role of neocolonialism and the persistence of power imbalances between former colonizers and their former colonies.

So, the claim that British colonies are generally more developed than those colonized by other European powers is not supported by the available evidence. Development is a complex and multifaceted concept that requires a nuanced analysis of multiple factors, including economic, social, political, and historical factors. While some former British colonies have achieved high levels of development, others have struggled with poverty, inequality, and political instability. Similarly, some former colonies of other European powers have made significant progress in terms of economic growth, social development, and political stability.

Therefore, any discussion of the relationship between colonialism and development must consider the unique context of each region, including historical factors, post-colonial policies, natural resources, local resistance, language, and international institutions. Only by taking a comprehensive and nuanced approach to development can we hope to understand the complex legacy of colonialism and its continuing impact on the world today.


  1. World Bank. "GDP per capita, PPP (current international $)." World Bank National Accounts Data, and OECD National Accounts Data Files, World Bank, 2020.
  2. United Nations Development Programme. "Human Development Indices and Indicators: 2020 Statistical Update." United Nations Development Programme, 2020.
  3. Kohn, Margaret. "Colonialism." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2018.
  4. Osterhammel, Jürgen. "Colonialism." International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd ed., vol. 4, 2015, pp. 757-762. ScienceDirect, doi: 10.1016/B978-0-08-097086-8.12085-2.
  5. Robinson, Sherrylynne. "Colonialism, Health and Illness." Encyclopedia of Public Health, edited by Lester Breslow, vol. 1, 2002, pp. 248-251. ScienceDirect, doi: 10.1016/B0-12-227225-4/00059-2.
  6. Bayly, C. A. "The Colonial Origins of National Identity." Past & Present, vol. 141, no. 1, 1993, pp. 125-146. JSTOR,
  7. Anderson, Clare. "Colonialism and its Legacies: Memory and Commemoration in Africa." Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 39, 2010, pp. 209-220. doi: 10.1146/annurev-anthro-091908-164305.
Akhyari Hananto

I began my career in the banking industry in 1997, and stayed approx 6 years in it. This industry boost his knowledge about the economic condition in Indonesia, both macro and micro, and how to More understand it. My banking career continued in Yogyakarta when I joined in a program funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB),as the coordinator for a program aimed to help improve the quality of learning and teaching process in private universities in Yogyakarta. When the earthquake stroke Yogyakarta, I chose to join an international NGO working in the area of ?disaster response and management, which allows me to help rebuild the city, as well as other disaster-stricken area in Indonesia. I went on to become the coordinator for emergency response in the Asia Pacific region. Then I was assigned for 1 year in Cambodia, as a country coordinator mostly to deliver developmental programs (water and sanitation, education, livelihood). In 2009, he continued his career as a protocol and HR officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, and two years later I joined the Political and Economic Section until now, where i have to deal with extensive range of people and government officials, as well as private and government institution troughout eastern Indonesia. I am the founder and Editor-in-Chief in Good News From Indonesia (GNFI), a growing and influential social media movement, and was selected as one of The Most Influential Netizen 2011 by The Marketeers magazine. I also wrote a book on "Fundamentals of Disaster Management in 2007"?, "Good News From Indonesia : Beragam Prestasi Anak Bangsa di dunia"? which was luanched in August 2013, and "Indonesia Bersyukur"? which is launched in Sept 2013. In 2014, 3 books were released in which i was one of the writer; "Indonesia Pelangi Dunia"?, "Indonesia The Untold Stories"? and "Growing! Meretas Jalan Kejayaan" I give lectures to students in lectures nationwide, sharing on full range of issues, from economy, to diplomacy Less
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