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Consider the following paragraph:

The possibility that such rents were important is, I think, reinforced by many of the institutional features of the colonial era: the carving up of the Third World by the European powers, and the frequent granting of exclusive trading rights to monopoly companies.

What is the relation between the two sentences separated by a colon? What the author is trying to say?

(Just note that by "rent", the author means economic rent.)

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As a general rule, What follows the colon is a description of what precedes it, or is at the very least related to it.

In your paragraph,

the carving up of the Third World by the European powers, and the frequent granting of exclusive trading rights to monopoly companies.

are intended to be

some of the many institutional features of the colonial era

Here are some references on the extension of sentences by using colons.

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  • Still couldn't get what the whole text means. What is the meaning of this part: "The possibility that such rents were important is reinforced by many of the institutional features of the colonial era."
    – user9206
    Aug 2, 2014 at 13:50
  • It means that the author thinks that said institutional features of the colonial era(like carving up of the Third World by European powers) strengthen the importance of such rents(economic rent, like you said) Aug 2, 2014 at 13:53

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