SWITZERLAND - TEL +41 (0)22 908 57 00 -

International History and Politics
Academic year 2011-2012

Power, Poverty and Wealth in Africa, 1700-1945
HP014 - Autumn - Course - 6 ECTS
Thursdays 10:15-12:00 Room CV 204

Course Description
This seminar course explores the political economy of Sub-
Saharan Africa from the Atlantic slave trade to colonial rule,
emphasizing the importance of Africans in shaping the
patterns of change within this context of overseas markets and
foreign influence.
Themes include: theoretical and historiographical
perspectives on Africa’s long-term relative poverty and on the
historical obstacles to political centralization in Africa; natural
resources and technical and institutional responses; indigenous
economic cultures and responses to markets; the external slave
trades; slavery, migrant labour and labour stabilization; fiscal
and economic dimensions of the pattern of precolonial and
colonial state formation, and consequences for ethnicity;
African initiatives and resistance in agriculture and business in
colonial West Africa; the struggle of African peasant
agriculture with the state in ‘settler’ economies; labour
repression, mining and manufacturing in South Africa.


Gareth Austin
+41 22 908 62 18

Reception hours:
Tuesdays 15:00-16:00
Thursdays 14:00-15:00


Felix Ohnmacht
+41 22 908 58 03

Reception hours:
Wednesdays 14.30 - 16.30 or by

Evaluation will be based on:
1. A seminar paper of 4-6,000 words (50%).
2. Presentation and defence of the paper (10%).
3. Comment on a fellow participant’s paper (20%).
4. Class preparation and participation (20%).

The introductory meeting will be followed by (depending on student numbers) about four seminars
(weeks 2-5) led by the teacher. There will then be up to eight seminars (6-13) led by student paper-
givers and discussants, before the concluding meeting.

It is imperative that everyone reads before each seminar. So, if you decide to take the course, you need
to commit yourself to reading the ‘Essential’ items, which total about 70 pages per week. If you are
discussant in a particular week, or have time to explore the topic further, please also use the ‘Further’
readings. For your own paper, even the ‘Further’ readings will not be enough. Please come and discuss
the question to be addressed by your paper, and the readings, in my reception (‘office’) hours.
NB: The readings are intended to be very accessible to those without an economics background.

Buying books?
J. Iliffe, Africans: the History of a Continent (2
edition: Cambridge University Press 2007) is the best
single-volume history of the continent. A good recent text is R. Reid, A History of Modern Africa:
1800 to the Present (Wiley-Blackwell 2009). In economic history, the classic remains A. G. Hopkins’
modestly titled An Economic History of West Africa (1973, reprinted several times).


1. Introduction to the seminar 2. What papers can we write? 3. Interpretations, theories and issues


After discussing the organisation of the course, we will begin to consider, in the context of African
history, the universal theme of the interaction between natural resources, political power and the
generation and distribution of income and wealth. The literature – from several disciplines – has
variously emphasised internal and/or external obstacles to economic development and state building in
Africa, while being uncertain about the relationship between the latter. Rival theoretical traditions,
notably rational-choice and dependency cum world systems, will be introduced. Finally, we need to
reflect on the implications of two features of the literature on African history and society: so far, it has
been written more by outsiders than by Africans; and the social science concepts used in the study of
Africa are mostly products of work on other regions of the world.

Essential reading

J-F. Bayart, ‘Africa in the world: a history of extraversion’, African Affairs 99, 395 (2000), pp. 217-67.

J. Herbst, ‘The challenge of state-building in Africa’, in Herbst, States and Power in Africa (2000), pp.

Further reading

I.Wallerstein, ‘The three stages of African involvement in the world economy’, in P. Gutkind & I.
Wallerstein (eds), The Political Economy of Contemporary Africa (1976), pp. 30-57. Reprinted in
Wallerstein, Africa and the Modern World (1986).

F. Bernault, ‘L’Afrique et la modernité des sciences sociales’, Vingtième siècle: Revue d’histoire 70
(2001), pp.127-38.

Background reading

J. Iliffe, Africans: the History of a Continent (2
edition, 2007).

R. Bates, Essays on the Political Economy of Rural Africa (1983), pp. 1-104.

T. Zaleza, A Modern Economic History of Africa, vol. I, The Nineteenth Century (1993), pp. 1-22.

R. Reid, ‘Past and presentism: the “precolonial” and the foreshortening of African history’, Journal of
African History 52:2 (2011), pp. 135-55.

G. Austin, ‘Reciprocal comparison and African history: tackling conceptual euro-centrism in the study
of Africa’s economic past’, African Studies Review, 50: 3 (2007), pp. 1-28.



Land was relatively abundant in most places at most times in precolonial Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, in
much of the continent, soil and rainfall patterns made it hard to use it intensively (Ethiopia being a
notable if partial exception to both generalisations). Thus natural conditions tended to hinder the
growth of markets, taxable surpluses, large-scale units of production, and political centralization. Yet
by 1700 there was a perhaps surprisingly high level of market production, especially in West Africa,
while in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole state formation was old though independent chiefdoms and
micro-polities continued to be common. We examine the strategies of producers and state-builders;
social attitudes to fertility and immigration; why and when conditions favoured slavery and slave
trading; and paths and varieties of economic and political change.

Essential reading

G. Austin, ‘Resources, techniques and strategies south of the Sahara: revising the factor endowments
perspective on African economic development, 1500-2000’, Economic History Review 61: 3 (2008),
pp. 587-624.

J. Herbst, ‘Power and space in precolonial Africa’ in his States and Power in Africa (2000), pp. 35-57.

J. Inikori, ‘Africa and the globalization process: Western Africa, 1450-1850’, Journal of Global
History 2: 1 (2007), pp. 63-86.

Further reading

A. Hopkins, An Economic History of West Africa (1973), pp. 17-27, 51-77, 124-35.

C-H. Perrot (ed.), Lineages et territoire en Afrique aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles : strateégies,
compétition, intégration (2000), esp. pp. 5-17.

I. Wilks, ‘Land, labor, gold, and the forest kingdom of Asante: a model of early change’, in Wilks,
Forests of Gold: Essays on the Akan and the Kingdom of Asante (1993), pp. 41-90.

P. Curtin, ‘The lure of Bambuk gold’, Journal of African History 14 (1973), pp. 623-31.

D. Crummey, ‘Abyssinian feudalism’, Past & Present 89 (1980), pp. 115-38.



For over a thousand years slaves were exported from Sub-Saharan Africa: across the Sahara, Red Sea,
Indian Ocean and, of course, the Atlantic. In view of the relative scarcity of labour in Africa, what
were the political and economic conditions that made the largest forced migration in history profitable
for European merchants and African merchants and rulers? And, despite our very limited knowledge
of the size of the population of Africa (including, most relevantly, of west and west-central Africa)
during this era, what can we establish about the consequences for the nature and distribution of power,
poverty and wealth within the continent?

Essential reading

J. Inikori, ‘The struggle against the transatlantic slave trade: the role of the state’, in S. Diouf (ed.),
Fighting the Slave Trade: West African Strategies (2003), pp.170-98.

J. Thornton, ‘Industry and terms of trade’, in his Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic
World, 1400-1680, pp. 44-53 (2
edition, 1998).

S. Fenoaltea, ‘Europe in the African Mirror: the slave trade and the rise of feudalism’, Rivista di Storia
Economica, 15: 2 (1999), pp.123-65.

Further reading

D. Eltis et al., Voyages: the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.

A. Hopkins, An Economic History of West Africa (1973), pp. 87-112.

W. Rodney, ‘Gold and slaves on the Gold Coast’, Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, 10
(1969), pp. 13-28. Classic article.

M. Klein, ‘The slave trade and decentralized societies’, Journal of African History 42: 1 (2001), pp.

P. Lovejoy & D. Richardson, ‘“This horrid hole”: royal authority, commerce and credit at Bonny
1600-1840’, Journal of African History 45: 3 (2005), pp. 363-92. New institutional economic history.



From the ‘Scramble’ (1879-c.1905) to the Second World War: cash-strapped colonial administrations
and their need to compromise and manage as well as coerce, hence the reliance (especially by the
British) on rule through African chiefs. We consider the reactions and initiatives of African elites and
wider populations. How far were colonial governments responsible for ‘the creation of tribes’ in

Essential reading

S. Berry, ‘Hegemony on a shoestring: Indirect Rule and farmers’ access to resources’, in Berry, No
Condition is Permanent: The Social Dynamics of Agrarian Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (1993), pp.
22-42 (or the earlier version, in the journal Africa 62: 3 (1992), pp. 327-55). Useful introduction.

T. Spear, ‘Neo-traditionalism and the limits of invention in British colonial Africa’, Journal of African
History 44:1 (2003), 1-27. Surveys the literature on the ‘invention’ of tradition, especially ethnicity.

Further reading

J. Iliffe, Africans: The History of a Continent (1995 or 2007 editions), chs on ‘Colonial invasion’ and
‘Colonial change’ (pp. 187-242 in the 1995 edition). Nuanced overview.

M. Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (1996)
[despite ‘late’, the argument is as or more relevant for pre-1945 colonialism], pp. 16-25, 72-90, 138-

J. Herbst, ‘The Europeans and the African problem’ in his States and Power in Africa (2000), pp. 58-
96. The colonial edition of the problem of state formation in the region.

A. Phillips, The Enigma of Colonialism: British Policy in West Africa (1989), pp. 59-84.

A.Hopkins, ‘An economic model of colonialism’, in his An Economic History of West Africa (1973),
pp. 167-86.

Background reading

B. Freund, ‘The material basis of colonial society, 1900-40’, ch 6 in his The Making of Contemporary
Africa (pp. 97-124 in 2
edition, 1998). An overview from Marxist-influenced social history.



We consider the fundamental distinction between colonies in which much of the land was appropriated
for European settlers or plantations, and colonies in which it remained in African hands. In both cases
African farmers responded to price incentives to produce for the market. In the settler colonies,
however, the state sought to drive Africans out of the produce market and into the labour market. In
the ‘peasant’ (and rural capitalist) economies, in contrast, African producers achieved an export crop
‘revolution’, which persuaded the local colonial administrators to support continued African ownership
of the land. There were other, related, differences between the two/three types of colony: including in
their implications for the distribution of income and the growth of manufacturing. Bates offers a
rational-choice account of the significance of the distinction between settler and peasant colonies for
the effectiveness of agricultural lobbies.
This week will include an introduction to the debates arising from - and now much surpassing –
the old conventional wisdom that economic growth in both kinds of colony was based on mobilising a
labour surplus: on getting underemployed Africans to work. That idea was formalised in the Lewis
model, which was applied by some South African and British economists to the settler colonies, and in
the Myint ‘vent-for-surplus’ model, designed to capture the experience of the ‘peasant’ colonies. Was
this idea of ‘costless’ economic growth justified in either or both cases? Historians have emphasised
African historical agency: the capacity of the indigenous population to determine their own fates, to a
large extent, even under colonial rule. This was exemplified by the failure of colonial governments to
drive Africans completely out of the produce market in the settler colonies, and of French merchants to
‘capture’ the lion’s share of cotton production in French Soudan (Mali).
Essential reading

C. Wrigley, ‘Aspects of economic history’, in A. Roberts (ed.), The Colonial Moment in Africa:
Essays on the Movement of Minds and Materials, 1900-1940 (1986), 77-139 (reprinted from the
Cambridge History of Africa, vol. 7). Overview.

P. Hill, ‘Ghanaian capitalist cocoa-farmers’, in Studies in Rural Capitalism in West Africa (1970), pp.
21-29 (or, in more detail, Hill, Migrant Cocoa-farmers of Southern Ghana, 2
edition 1997).
Challenging the old stereotype of African cash-crop producers as small peasants.

Further reading

G. Arrighi, ‘Labour supplies in historical perspective: a study of the proletarianization of the African
peasantry in Rhodesia’, Journal of Development Studies 3 (1970), pp. 197-234; reprinted in Arrighi
and J. Saul, Essays on the Political Economy of Africa (1973). Classic critique of the application of the
Lewis model to Africa.

R. Austen, African Economic History (1987), pp. 181-7. Perceptive.

R. Bates, ‘Pressure groups, public policy, and agricultural development: a study of divergent
outcomes’ (Kenya/Gold Coast) in R.H. Bates & M. Lofchie (eds), Agricultural Policy in Africa
(1980), pp. 61-91. Reprinted in Bates, Essays on the Political Economy of Rural Africa (1983). New
institutional political economy.

R. Roberts, ‘Local processes and the world economy: imported cloth, the domestic cotton market, and
the handicraft textile industry, 1918-1932’, in his Two Worlds of Cotton: Colonialism and the Regional
Economy in the French Soudan, 1800-1946 (1996), pp. 192-220.

S. Bowden, B. Chiripanhura & P. Mosley. ‘Measuring and explaining poverty in six African countries:
a long-period approach’, Journal of International Development 20: 8 (2008), pp. 1049-79. Quantitative
evidence that African welfare rose earlier and faster in ‘peasant’ than in ‘settler’ colonies.

NOTE: Most or all of the following topics (5-13) will be approached via student papers, and the
scope and readings (and possibly the list of topics itself) may be revised closer to the time to
reflect the design of the papers.



Between 1441 and 1867 some 13-15 million people were shipped in chains from the labour-scarce
African continent to Atlantic islands, Europe or the Americas. This is such a central process in African
history that we should return to it, focussing this time on the consequences for economies, societies
and polities the enslaved deportees left behind. The precise agenda will be shaped by your papers, but
questions include: did the external trades, and specifically the Atlantic trade, strengthen or weaken
states, or simply make them temporarily more militaristic? Did it promote or just reproduce inequality
in the distribution of wealth and power? Did it retard or promote the expansion of markets? The
following readings augment those given for week 3.

Essential reading

J. Inikori, ‘Ideology versus the tyranny of paradigm: historians and the impact of the Atlantic slave
trade on African societies’, African Economic History: 22 (1994), pp. 37-58. Also relevant is Inikori’s
2007 article, on the reading list for week 2.

E. Evans and D. Richardson, ‘Hunting for rents: the economics of slaving in pre-colonial Africa’,
Economic History Review 48 (1995), pp. 665-86.

D. Henige, ‘Measuring the Immeasurable: the Atlantic Slave Trade, West African population and the
Pyrrhonian critic’, Journal of African History 27 (1986), pp. 295-313.

Further reading

W. Rodney, ‘Gold and slaves on the Gold Coast’, Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, 10
(1969), pp. 13-28.

J. Searing, ‘“No Kings, No Lords, No Slaves”: ethnicity and religion Among the Sereer-Safèn of
Western Bawol, 1700-1914’, Journal of African History 43: 3 (2002), 407-29.

Background reading

J. Miller, Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade 1730-1830 (1988), Part I.

P. Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery: a history of slavery in Africa (pref. the 2000 edition), chs 3-7.


As the Atlantic slave trade made its protracted and uneven decline (following British abolition which
took legal effect from 1 January 1808), African rulers and merchants faced a problem of adaptation:
what to export instead of captives to earn the means to buy imports, whether of cloth or guns. A long-
standing thesis, given classic form by Hopkins (1973), sees the rise of what the abolitionists called
‘legitimate commerce’, based on palm oil and groundnut (peanut) exports, as revolutionary: the entry
into the world market of small producers and traders, undermining the position of the big traders and
rulers who had dominated the slave trade. Critics see the continuities as outweighing the changes.
Either way, the commercial transition on the coast was not the only fundamental change that was in
process. The early nineteenth century saw the culmination of a wave of jihadist movements that
established strongly Muslim states across most of the savannas of West Africa, including the Sokoto
Caliphate (whose commercial centre was the city of Kano, in northern Nigeria). As Lovejoy was
perhaps the first to note, this religious and political movement had important economic consequences,
notably creating a large regional market based on the Caliphate. Finally, since the 1970s research has
increasingly shown a huge irony: the closing of the Atlantic export market for captives lowered prices
of slaves within West Africa, and facilitated their use on an increasing scale to produce commodities
for both overseas and regional markets. We should review the transition debate, and consider what the
political and economic changes of this period suggest about the long-term dynamics of precolonial

Essential reading

A. Hopkins, An Economic History of West Africa (1973), pp. 124-35. Classic statement of
transformation thesis about the impact of ‘legitimate commerce’.

R. Law, ‘Introduction’ to Law (ed.), From Slave Trade to `Legitimate' Commerce: the commercial
transition in nineteenth-century West Africa (1995), pp. 1-31.

P. Lovejoy, ‘Plantations in the economy of the Sokoto Caliphate’, Journal of African History 19
(1978), pp. 341-68.

Further reading

R. Law, ‘The historiography of the commercial transition in nineteenth-century West Africa’, in T.
Falola (ed.), African Historiography: essays in honour of Jacob Ade Ajayi (1993), pp. 91-115.

J. Flint and E.A. McDougall, ‘Economic change in West Africa in the nineteenth century’, in J. Ajayi
& M. Crowder, History of West Africa, vol. 2, 2nd edition (1987), pp. 379-402. Overview, paying
attention to events away from the coast.

R. Law (ed.), From Slave Trade to `Legitimate' Commerce: the commercial transition in nineteenth-
century West Africa (1995), especially pp. 32-77 (the chapters by Lovejoy & Richardson, & Lynn).

G. Austin, ‘African business in nineteenth-century West Africa’, in A. Jalloh & T. Falola (eds), Black
Business and Economic Power (2002), pp. 80-113.

Background reading

J. Ajayi & M. Crowder, History of West Africa, vol. 2, 2nd edition (1987), chs 1 & 3. Political history
of the jihad movements and the Sokoto Caliphate.

K. Swindell & A. Jeng, Migrants, Credit and Climate: The Gambian Groundnut Trade, 1834-1934
(2006), pp. 1-99.

F. Manchuelle, Willing Migrants: Soninke Labor Diasporas, 1848-1960 (1997), pp. 1-92.


In southern Africa, too, the early to mid-nineteenth century saw new waves of state-building, creating
an apparently new kind of state: based not on extended kinship but on personal ties to a dictatorial
king. The prototype was Shaka`s Zulu kingdom, whose violent expansion produced a chain reaction of
state reformation or creation on the same lines, destroying or displacing earlier kingdoms from Natal to
as far afield as southern Tanzania (the wave of violence known as the ‘mfecane’). The ‘Africanist’
literature of the 1960s-70s (Omer-Cooper especially) depicted Shaka as a great African innovator. A
generation later, Cobbing denounced both the idea that there had been so much violence, and the
notion of the African genesis of this process. He argued that such political changes as occurred in
African polities were responses to European encroachment from the Cape. Cobbing in turn has been
strongly critiqued, especially by Eldredge, and there remains the question of how far the origins of the
Zulu kingdom, and thereby of the chain reaction that undoubtedly occurred in some form, was a
response to ecological crisis in the pastoral economy, and commercial opportunities from trade with
the Portuguese.
For an East African comparison, particularly interesting is the Great Lakes area, in which a
long-standing system of kingdoms, notably Buganda, was undergoing significant changes.

Essential reading

L. Ngcongco, ‘The mfecane and the rise of new African states’, in J. Ajayi (ed.), Africa in the
Nineteenth Century until the 1880s (1989), pp. 90-123. (vol VI of the UNESCO General History of
Africa). French edition L’Afrique au XIXe siècle jusque vers les années 1880. Provides a good

J. Cobbing, ‘The mfecane as alibi’, Journal of African History 29 (1988), pp. 487-519. Controversial
but complicated.

E. Eldredge, ‘Sources of conflict in Southern Africa, ca.1800-30: the `Mfecane' reconsidered’, Journal
of African History 33:1 (1992), pp. 1-36. Excellent critical synthesis. Reprinted in Hamilton, Mfecane
Aftermath (below).

Further reading

M. Deflem, ‘Warfare, political leadership, and state formation: the case of the Zulu kingdom, 1808-
1879’, Ethnology 38:4 (1999), pp. 3791-91. From perspective of theories of state formation.

C. Hamilton (ed.), The Mfecane Aftermath: reconstructive debates in Southern African history (1995).
See the reassertion of the earlier orthodoxy by Omer-Cooper (‘The Mfecane survives its critics’, pp.
277-98); the contributions by Wright (pp. 107-21) and Etherington (pp. 13-19, 35-49), both of whom
are sympathetic to Cobbing; and Parsons’s contributions on the knock-on effects of the mfecane in the
interior (pp 301-6, 323-49).

Background reading, including Great Lakes perspectives

N. Etherington, The Great Treks: The Transformation of Southern Africa, 1815-1854 (2001). A
revisionist overview within which (perhaps) to place the above debate.

J-P Chrétien, L’Afrique des grands lacs: deux milles ans d’histoire (2000), ch. 3.

R. Reid, Political Power in Pre-Colonial Buganda: economy, society and warfare in the nineteenth
century (2002). (For skimming or dipping into).



In the 1970s Arrighi and others refuted the proposition that African agriculture in the early colonial
period had been characterised by a surplus of labour. Instead, they argued that it was African farmers
who responded first to the emergence of urban markets for grain. They thereby moved from being
subsistence cultivators to ‘peasants’, producing partly for their own consumption and partly for sale.
However, the administrations of settler colonies responded to calls from European mine-owners and
settlers by legislating to try to force Africans to offer their labour for sale, rather than their produce.
Whereas Arrighi and his colleagues believed that these policies were successful, Mosley and others
have documented the persistence of African production for the market. That raises the question of
whether, as has been argued, the African rural population became increasingly polarised between a
surplus-selling elite and a landless poor. We need to consider these issues, and also think about the
significance of settler agriculture for the origins of modern manufacturing in Africa.

Essential reading

G. Arrighi, ‘Labour supplies in historical perspective: a study of the proletarianization of the African
peasantry in Rhodesia’, Journal of Development Studies 3 (1970), pp. 197-234; reprinted in Arrighi
and J. Saul, Essays on the Political Economy of Africa (1973).

P. Mosley, ‘Agricultural development and government policy in settler economies: Kenya & Southern
Rhodesia, 1900-60’, Economic History Review 35 (1982), pp. 390-408; and debate with S. Choate in
Economic History Review 37 (1984), pp. 409-16.

Further reading

I. Phimister, ‘Commodity relations and class formation in the Zimbabwean countryside, 1898-1920’,
Journal of Peasant Studies 13, 4 (1986), pp. 240-57.

P. Nyambara, ‘Colonial policy and peasant cotton agriculture in Southern Rhodesia, 1904-1953’,
International Journal of African Historical Studies 33 (2000), pp. 81-111.

T. Ranger, ‘The Great Depression and the Zimbabwean peasantry’, in his Peasant Consciousness and
Guerilla War in Zimbabwe (1985), pp. 54-98.

T. Kanogo, Squatters and the Roots of Mau Mau: 1905-63 (1987). (For skimming/dipping into, not
reading from cover to cover).



The mineral discoveries of the 1860s-80s were a necessary but insufficient condition for South
Africa’s transformation from a marginal exporter of wool and wine to a major force in the world
market. In 1910 South Africa became effectively independent, under white minority rule. In 1924,
building on earlier private initiatives, the newly-elected Pact government became one of the first in the
world to adopt import-substituting industrialization as policy. There has been a long-running debate
about whether policies of racial monopoly were essential to the growth of the economy, as radicals
argued, or were a brake upon it, as economic liberals maintained. For this early period we need to
examine how the mining companies and the state secured an increasing supply of African labour, and
with what effects. The real wages of black miners in South African gold mining were higher in the
1890s than they were to be again until the 1970s; despite technological advances which raised output
per worker in the interim. Were low black wages and job reservation for whites a reflection of the
interests of the mining companies, or of white labour, and did they provide the basis for the emergence
of an internationally-competitive manufacturing sector?

Essential reading

R. Austen, African Economic History (1987), pp. 162-71. South Africa in the comparative context of
colonial regimes elsewhere in southern and central Africa.

S. Trapido, ‘South Africa in a comparative study of industrialisation’, Journal of Development Studies
7: 3 (1971), pp. 309-20.

C. Feinstein, An Economic History of South Africa: Conquest, Discrimination and Development
(2005), pp. 43-142. The fullest and best account: please read as much of it as you can.

Further reading

P. Harries, ‘Kinship, ideology and the nature of pre-colonial labour migration’, in S. Marks & R.
Rathbone (eds), Industrialisation and Social Change in South Africa (1982), pp.142-66.

C. Van Onselen, ‘Race and class in the South African countryside: cultural osmosis and social
relations in the sharecropping economy of Transvaal’, American Historical Review 95: 1 (1990), pp.

J. Krikler, White Rising: The 1922 Insurrection and Racial Killing in South Africa (2005), pp. 21-49,

T. Maloka, ‘Mines and labour migrants in Southern Africa’, Journal of Historical Sociology 10: 2
(1997), pp. 213-24

M. Lipton, Capitalism and Apartheid: South Africa, 1910-1986 (1986 edition), chs 5 & 7.
Background reading

N. Worden, The Making of Modern South Africa (4
edition, 2007). Excellent short analytical
narrative, very useful for broad and changing context and for summaries of complex events.

W. Beinart, Twentieth-century South Africa (1994). Another good general history.



This week we analyse the ‘cash-crop revolution’ in more depth (picking up from week 5). While
colonial attempts to coerce Africans into growing more cotton achieved little, where export agriculture
took off it was the essentially voluntary achievement of African farmers and merchants extending the
pattern of land-extensive cultivation and selective adoption of exotic crops, already manifested in
earlier periods. How far does the accumulation of evidence on labour use, food security and
indigenous entrepreneurship confirm, complement or contradict the retrospective ‘predictions’ of the
vent-for-surplus models? Meanwhile colonial administrations, especially in British West Africa,
fearing the emergence of a landless class, resisted pressures to support or enforce a shift to a free
market in land – which some of their own officials considered the logical corollary of cash crop

Essential reading

J. Hogendorn, ‘Economic initiative and African cash farming: pre-colonial origins and early colonial
developments’, in P. Duignan & L. Gann (eds), Colonialism in Africa 1870-1960, vol. 4, The
Economics of Colonialism (1975), 283-328. Overview.

M. Salau, ‘The role of slave labor in groundnut production in early colonial Kano’, Journal of African
History 51:2 (2010), pp. 147-65.

J. Tosh, ‘The cash-crop revolution in tropical Africa: an agricultural reappraisal’, African Affairs 79:
314 (1980), pp. 79-94. Important environmental critique of the vent-for-surplus approach.

Further reading

J. Tosh, ‘Lango agriculture during the early colonial period: land and labour in a cash-crop economy’
[Uganda], Journal of African History 19 (1978), pp. 415-39.

A.Isaacman & R. Roberts (eds), Cotton, Colonialism, & Social History in Sub-Saharan Africa (1995),
ch. 1.

A. Phillips, The Enigma of Colonialism: British Policy in West Africa (1989), pp. 59-84, 111-12, 118-

M. Cowen and R. Shenton, ‘Bankers, peasants, and land in British West Africa 1905-37’, Journal of
Peasant Studies 19:1 (1991), pp. 26-58.

Background reading

A. Hopkins, An Economic History of West Africa (1973), chs 5 & 6. Incisive overviews.

H. Myint, The Economics of the Developing Countries (1964), ch.3. Clear presentation of the vent-for-
surplus model.

C. Harrison, T. Ingawa & S. Martin, ‘The establishment of colonial rule in West Africa, c.1900-1914’,
in J. Ajayi and M. Crowder (eds), History of West Africa, vol. 2 (2nd ed., 1987), 517-34. Alternative



Arguably the greatest social change of this period in West Africa and parts of East Africa was the
decline of slavery: often delayed, and uneven in gender and age terms. On its causes, a key question is
how this process related to both colonial policies and the ‘cash crop revolution’. On its effects, we
need to consider the destinies of former slaves, the growth of migrant – male – wage labour, and the
beginnings of urban informal sectors. All this needs to be placed in the context of a demographic
watershed. There is evidence of population falls in some areas during the early colonial decades, but
from about the 1920s the general trend was decisively upwards: moving Africa away from its
traditional labour-scarcity, and potentially making access to land rather than to labour power the basic
source of poverty. How did the sources, incidence and structure of poverty differ in 1939 or 1945 from
the situation at the beginning of colonial rule, or indeed as of 1900?

Essential reading – at least one of:

J. Iliffe, The African Poor: A History (1987), pp. 143-213.

G. Austin, ‘Cash crops and freedom: export agriculture and the decline of slavery in colonial West
Africa’, International Review of Social History, 54: 1 (2009), pp.1-37.

Further reading: perspectives from a range of themes and places

C. Robertson & I. Berger, ‘Introduction: analyzing class and gender – African perspectives’, in their
(eds), Women and Class in Africa (1986), pp. 3-24.

B. Fall, Le travail forcé en Afrique Occidentale française (1900-1946) (1993), pp. 11-52.

F. Cooper, Decolonization and African Society: the Labor Question in French and British Africa
(1996), chapter on the International Labour Office’s campaign against forced labour.

S. Bowden, B. Chiripanhura & P. Mosley. ‘Measuring and explaining poverty in six African countries:
a long-period approach’, Journal of International Development 20: 8 (2008), pp. 1049-79.

J-G. Deutsch, Emancipation without Abolition in German East Africa, c.1884-1914 (2006).

S. Doyle, Crisis and Decline in Bunyoro; Population and Environment in Western Uganda 1860-1955
(2006), 134-63, 210-250. Disease, famine and population.

D. Ohadike, ‘“When the slaves left, owners wept: entrepreneurs and emancipation among the Igbo
people’, in S. Miers & M. Klein (eds), Slavery and Colonial Rule in Africa (1999), 189-207.

G. Austin, Labour, Land and Capital in Ghana: From Slavery to Free Labour in Asante, 1807-1956
(2005), chapters 13, 16, 19.



There was a strongly asymmetric tendency in the trade and services sector of colonial “peasant”
economies: by the 1920s a multitude of mostly small African enterprises, often sole-traders,
confronted a small number of European firms who often formed cartels. African resistance occurred
within the market and also through collective action to resist taxation (e.g. the ‘Women Riot’ in
southeast Nigeria), to fight for more equal terms in the market (the cocoa ‘hold-ups’ in what became
Ghana). Economic nationalism also inspired attempts to adopt Western business structure, in the form
of the indigenous banking movement in Nigeria. What were the implications of the competitive
asymmetry for the growth and distribution of income, and how effective was the resistance? Did it
foreshadow the post-1945 era of political nationalism and decolonization?

Essential reading

A. Nwabughuogu, ‘From wealthy entrepreneurs to petty traders: the decline of African middlemen in
eastern Nigeria, 1900-1950’, Journal of African History 23 (1982), pp. 365-79.

A. Hopkins, ‘Innovation in a colonial context: African origins of the Nigerian cocoa-farming industry,
1880-1920’, in C. Dewey & Hopkins (eds), The Imperial Impact (1978), pp. 83-96 (endnotes at pp.

A. Hopkins, ‘Economic aspects of political movements in Nigeria and in the Gold Coast, 1918-1939’,
Journal of African History 7 (1966), pp. 133-52.

J. Miles, ‘Rural protest in the Gold Coast: the cocoa hold-ups, 1908-1938’, in C. Dewey and A.
Hopkins (eds), The Imperial Impact (London, 1978), pp. 152-70 (endnotes at pp. 353-7).

Further reading

O. Georg, ‘La destruction de un réseau d’échange précoloniale : l’example de la Guinée’, Journal of
African History 21 (1980), 467-84.

O. Ayodeji. ‘Elder Dempster and the shipping trade of Nigeria during the First World War’, Journal of
African History 33: 2 (1992), pp. 255-71.

S. Martin, ‘Production and protest: the Women Riot, 1929’, in her Palm Oil and Protest: An Economic
History of the Ngwa Region, South-eastern Nigeria, 1800-1980 (1988), pp. 106-18.

G. Austin & C. Uche, ‘Collusion and competition in colonial economies: banking in British West
Africa, 1916-1960’, Business History Review 81 (2007), pp. 1-26.

J. Byfield, The Bluest Hands: A Social and Economic History of Women Dyers in Abeokuta (Nigeria),
1890-1940 (2002). (To dip into).


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful

Master Your Semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master Your Semester with a Special Offer from Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.