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It has often been claimed that the structure of export trade between Africa and Europe during the colonial period depended on the colonizer’s identity, with the British relying on free trade and the French, in contrast, employing monopsonistic policies. However, due to the lack of systematic data on colonial trade, this claim has remained untested. This study uses recently available data on export prices from African colonies to estimate monopsonistic profit margins for British and French trading companies. The results challenge the view of the British colonizers as champions of free trade. The level of profit margins was determined much more by the local conditions in Africa (history of trade and the presence of European producers) than by the identity of the colonial power. The British did not necessarily rely on free trade more than the French and did so only when implementing monopsonies was not a viable option.