Measuring and Explaining Formal Institutional Persistence in French West Africa
Colonial institutions are thought to be highly persistent, but measuring that persistence is difficult. Using a text analysis method that allows us to measure similarity between bodies of text, we examine the extent to which one formal institution - the penal code - has retained colonial language in seven West African countries. We find that the contemporary penal codes of most countries retain little colonial language. Additionally, we find that it is not meaningful to speak of institutional divergence across the unit of French West Africa, as there is wide variation in the legislative post-coloniality of individual countries. We present preliminary analyses explaining this variation and show that the amount of time that a colony spent under colonisation correlates with more persistent colonial institutions.