Taxing the Natives’: fiscal administration, labour and crop cultivation in Portuguese Guinea (1900-1945)

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The present chapter focuses on the question of direct 'native' taxation in former Portuguese Guinea – current Guinea Bissau – from its introduction in the early 1900s to the end of WWII. It deals with different political contexts, starting with the military campaigns waged by the Portuguese with increasing intensity from the 1890s, and ending with the prelude to fiscal reforms in introduced in the 1950s. By linking tax reforms to economic aspects such as export crop production and to 'native' labour policies, it takes a broad view of the changes taking place during this crucial period for the establishment of 'modern' colonial rule in this territory wedged in between Senegal and French Guinea. In order to contribute to a better understanding of the colonial context, the chapter first embarks upon a discussion of taxation in Portugal and its colonies during the 1800s. The second section discusses the military campaigns and violent armed conflict until 1915, when Guinea was officially ‘pacified’. It witnessed the introduction of the hut tax, which was essentially a ‘war tax’, while taking a closer look at the intricacies of administration in loco. It then moves on to fiscal extraction under a civil administration established in the late 1910s, but already introduced by statute in 1912, and the implications for African societies. The period beginning with the 1929 world crisis and the early 1930s when the New State imposed strict ideological adherence to the balanced budget, are dealt with in the final section. Here, the increasing pressures on native communities’ capacity to supply labour, crops and taxes are discussed, as well as the overall performance of administration, both qualitatively and quantitatively, until the end of WWII, placing it in the wider, regional context and its relations with the neighbouring AOF. In the concluding section, the changing patterns of administration and its fiscal policies on the one hand and the attitudes of 'fiscal subjects' as well as the impact of tax levies in regional terms are addressed on the other.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdministration and Taxation in former Portuguese Africa:
Subtitle of host publication1900-1945
Place of PublicationReino Unido
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Number of pages60
ISBN (Print)1-44387010-2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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