Research Project

Nick Pellitta, Political Science & Economics

Advisor: David Hughes, Anthropology

This project examines how publicly and privately run colonial administrations in southwestern Africa during the 1890s resulted in vastly different human rights outcomes for the African peoples that inhabited them. Colonies administered by a combination of public and private elements, such as charter companies, had the least lethal human rights outcomes. This is because the competing interests of both parties developed a more humanitarian rule of law. I analyze three test cases: the Congo Free State, which was run privately by King Leopold II of Belgium and his International Association of the Congo; German South West Africa, which was administered by the German metropole and its agents; and the British South Africa Company, a private entity that was awarded a royal charter to operate in the territories of Mashonaland and Matabeleland. Although native African populations were brutalized in all three territories, they faced worse outcomes in the two former ones. German authorities killed over 100,000 in a genocide against the Herero people, and King Leopold’s exploitative labor practices caused millions of deaths in the Congo. I argue that these findings can extend to future extraterrestrial expansion. As humankind moves to colonize the moon and other systems, we should look to systems of governance that will best protect human rights.