University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Type the title of a new list here > Capital Entrepôts at the Margins of States. The Role of the British Administration in Tax haven and Offshore Banking Developments in Former Colonies, 1961-1978

Capital Entrepôts at the Margins of States. The Role of the British Administration in Tax haven and Offshore Banking Developments in Former Colonies, 1961-1978

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Kristine Sævold is a Ph.D-candidate in History in the Dept. of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion at the University of Bergen (Norway) with a specialization on tax havens and offshore financial centres (OFCs). She is interested in the origin of tax havens and offshore banking, and how these phenomena reflect relationships among the market, the state and the citizen. She has been teaching the history of tax havens and OFCs to students as part of her PhD-education, and she engages actively in Norwegian public debates on tax havens and offshore finance. More specifically, her work examines the role of the British administration in the set-up of havens and offshore centres in the 1960s and 1970s, in a period of decolonization when tax haven and offshore provisions proliferated throughout former British colonies.

Capital Entrepôts at the Margins of States (Working Title)

The Role of the British Administration in Tax haven and Offshore Banking Developments in Former Colonies, 1961-1978

Abstract

Tax havens and offshore financial centres reflect relationships among the market, the state and the citizen. Despite their vital position to the global political economy, little is known about their history. However, the centrality of the British Empire to tax haven and offshore financial centres from its capacity as a colonial power is demonstrated within the social sciences. This thesis examines the gradual formation and management of a British tax haven policy under the leadership of the Treasury from 1961 to 1978, a period when tax haven debates peaked within the British administration in the post-war period. The analysis builds on sources from British public archives, asking; which territories were analysed to be tax havens, and why? Whose interests were at stake, and who influenced the British tax haven policy? The British authorities allowed through ad hoc decisions a system to rise as a result of negotiated interests among tax havens, a professional consultancy industry, foreign investors and a forgiving metropolitan state. Unclear sovereign relationships among the metropolitan power and colonial remnants created rooms of manoeuvre of which market agents utilized to benefit private interests. The result was the growth of political and economic organizational forms referred to by British officials as “financial pirates` nests” and “private islands”. A tax haven model was understood within Whitehall institutions to grow out of one forerunner; the Free port of Bahamas of 1955, to spread throughout former colonies in the 1960s, and eventually emerge with modern offshore banking from the late 1960s. The role of the British administration in this transition is analysed here as a contribution to the emergence of a specific feature of capitalism conceptualized here as “Capital Entrepôts” at the margins of states.

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