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Introduction

Chapter
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Part of the St Antony’s Series book series

Abstract

No offspring of the industrial revolution was the object of more heartfelt panegyrics or dedicated mythologisation during the nineteenth century than the railway. Even intellectual gravediggers of capitalism such as Karl Marx acknowledged its material and symbolic power. Railway building absorbed vast quantities of European capital throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the colonial context, the railway came to be seen as a means of extending and entrenching empire; it was a vanguard of imperialism.

Keywords

Railway Company White Worker Black Labour White Labour Settler Community 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    D. Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford, 1990), p. 240.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    S. Ousmane, God’s Bits of Wood (London, 1986), p. 32.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The regional railway map was completed in 1931, when the Benguella Railway Company, which linked Katanga with the Angolan coastal port of Lobito Bay, opened. The Chemin de Fer du Haut-Katanga connected the Benguella railway and the Rhodesian railway system, which now sat at the centre of a railway network which encompoassed the south, east and west coasts of colonial Africa. But the Benguella route was the poor relation. The BSA Co. always saw it as a threat to the stranglehold of the Rhodesian railway system over the copper traffic which came to be its lifeblood. Chapter 2 describes how that threat was nullified.Google Scholar
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    I. R. Phimister, An Economic and Social History of Zimbabwe, 1890–1948. Capital Accumulation and Class Struggle (London, 1988), pp. 118–9; Sir T. Gregory, Ernest Oppenheimer and the Economic Development of Southern Africa (London, 1962), p. 435.Google Scholar
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    For a more detailed exposition of the origins and character of this revisionist historiography, see B. Freund, The Making of Contemporary Africa (London, 1984), ch. 1.Google Scholar
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    There are, of course, many biographies of Rhodes himself which there is not sufficient space here to consider. The most notable recent biography is Robert Rotberg’s The Founder. Cecil Rhodes and the Pursuit of Power (Oxford, 1988). It does not, however, have much that is new to say on Rhodes’ railway projects.Google Scholar
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    See draft chapter 6 of S. Thornton’s thesis. ‘A History of the African Population of Bulawayo’ (University of Manchester draft PhD. thesis, n.d.).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    This was originally published in 1973 as Railways of Rhodesia.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
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    I. R. Phimister, ‘Towards a History of Zimbabwe’s Rhodesia Railways’, Zimbabwean History, XII (1981) p. 79; as we shall see, Phimister himself returned in more detail to the question of the railways as an ‘expression of imperialism’ in his pathbreaking An Economic and Social History of Zimbabwe.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    This study is a revised version of my doctoral thesis entitled ‘Capital and Labour on the Rhodesian Railway System, 1890–1939’ (University of Oxford, 1986). Apart from changes in argument and emphasis, the most important change is the extension of its chronological focus up to 1947, the year in which the railway system was purchased from the BSA Co. by the governments of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Bechuanaland Protectorate.Google Scholar
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    P.J. Cain and A.G. Hopkins, British Imperialism. Innovation and Expansion, 1688–1914 (London, 1993), pp. 10–22, 49–51. The phrase ‘railway imperialism’ derives from the collection of case-studies of the same name, edited by Clarence Davis and Kenneth Wilburn Junior (Connecticut, 1991). The most rewarding sections of this uneven collection are in fact the introduction and conclusion, both by Ronald Robinson, in which he explores the complex relationship between the railway and empire.Google Scholar
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    The quote is lifted from the title of Leroy Vail’s ‘Mozambique’s Chartered Companies: The Rule of the Feeble’, Journal of African History, XVII (1976).Google Scholar
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    See chapters 3 and 4 of Phimister’s An Economic and Social History of Zimbabwe. Phimister appears to assign less significance than I do to the element of interdependence between the BSA Co. and the Southern Rhodesian settler community.Google Scholar
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    This interpretation goes against that of Harry Braverman in Labour and Monopoly Capital (New York, 1974). Braverman believed that monopoly capital represented the domination of capitalist production by ‘Fordism’, that is, mass production and techniques of ‘scientific management’. The deskilling and mechanisation involved in the transition to mass production lead, according to Braverman, to the replacement of formal subordination by the real subordination of labour. This is not how it worked out on the Rhodesian railway system before 1947.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    C. Van Onselen, Chibaro. African Mine Labour in Southern Rhodesia, 1900–33 (London, 1976).Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    The phrase ‘racial despotism’ derives from Webster, Cast in a Racial Mould, p. xiii; Van Onselen, Chibaro, pp. 227–44.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    C. Van Onselen, ‘Black Workers in Central African Industry: A Critical Essay on the Historiography and Sociology of Rhodesia’, in I. R. Phimister and C. Van Onselen, Studies in the History of African Mine Labour in Colonial Zimbabwe (Gwelo, 1978), p. 96.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    For example see R. Moorsom, ‘Underdevelopment, Contract Labour and Worker Consciousness in Namibia, 1915–72’, Journal of Southern African Studies, IV (1978) pp. 52–87.Google Scholar
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    The main protagonists in this debate have been: S. Thornton, ‘A History of the African Population of Bulawayo’ (University of Manchester draft PhD thesis, n.d), draft chapter 6; J. Lunn, ‘The Political Economy of Protest: the 1948 General Strike in Southern Rhodesia’ (University of Manchester BA thesis, 1982); Phimister, An Economic and Social History of Zimbabwe, pp. 258–74; O. Stuart, ‘“Good Boys”, Footballers and Strikers: African Social Change in Bulawayo, 1933–53’ (University of Oxford PhD thesis, 1989), ch. 7; J. Lunn, ‘The Meaning of the 1948 General Strike in Colonial Zimbabwe’, unpub. (1994).Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    R. Palmer, Land and Racial Domination in Rhodesia (London, 1977), especially pp. 67, 117–18, 122–3, 273–4; K. Vickery, Black and White in Southern Zambia. The Tonga Plateau Economy and British Imperialism (Connecticut, 1986), especially pp. 75–9, 120–31, 189–93.Google Scholar

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© Jon Lunn 1997

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