While much of the world continues to shake off the lingering effects of the Great Recession, one continent has been cited by the World Bank as the potential for the next economic boom: Africa.
How it got there is a complicated story of an international mix of imperial endeavors to develop the continent and exploit its wealth. “Developing Africa: Concepts and Practices in Twentieth-Century Colonialism” examines the similarities between British, French and Portuguese attempts to transform and reap the benefits of the land.
Joseph Hodge, department chair of the Department of History at West Virginia University, who co-edited the book, said the book offers a unique examination of the period, with authors from Africa, Europe and North America in multiple disciplines each providing a different context.
“Over the past 20 years or so, individuals have been looking at 20th century Colonial Africa and looking at the impact of European powers and in terms of developing – or under-developing, however you look at it – the continent,” Hodge said. “This is an attempt to try and do a broad comparative synthesis – What do we know now, after 20 years as scholars studying this topic? What sort of conclusions can we come to?”
Much of the focus of the histories of development assembled in the book is on the final decades of colonial rule in Africa, especially the period from the 1920s onward. The book investigates a range of contexts, from agriculture to mass media.
The book is a transatlantic project that emerged from the Developing Africa conference in 2011 in Vienna. Several of the chapters were originally presented during the three-day conference, with more contributions sought after.
While much of the book’s focus is on British colonization, several chapters study French and Portuguese colonial development and draw comparisons between British and French experiences.
Hodge believes this to be one of the first comparative texts on the subject, utilizing historians, anthropologists, literary studies and linguistics specialists to provide context to the development of Africa. One contributor uses popular novels at the time providing commentary through subtext.
“Developing Africa: Concepts and Practices in Twentieth-Century Colonialism” is published by Manchester University Press.
CONTACT: Devon Copeland, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
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