Bridging the Zambesi: A Colonial Folly by Landeg White

By Landeg White

In January 1935, a railway bridge 2.3 miles lengthy was once opened around the Zambesi delta in Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique). fifty one years later, it was once blown up through anti-government forces struggling with with RENAMO. This booklet, that's in keeping with Portuguese and British records, brings jointly politics, international relations, economics, labour historical past and know-how to teach how this significant engineering feat used to be a catastrophe of colonial making plans. at the present time, the decrease Zambesi bridge is via a long way the grandest of the ruins of colonial firm littering the tremendous river valley.

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He discusses with the manager ofSena Sugar Estates the possibility ofspecial freight rates for 'boys' as labour migrants. But apart from such moments when the topic is forced upon hirn, it is as if the places he visits are unpopulated or populated only by whites and a few 'untrustworthy' Indian traders. At one level, this is simply a welcome absence of the contemporary cant about savage races and the civilising effects offorced labour. None of his London wartime philanthropism ever found expression in Africa, and it informs no aspect of his wheeler-dealing.

In demanding a government-built railway, the missionaries and settlers of the Shire Highlands were urging the demands of the times and they pointed to the example of the Ugandan Railway already speeding inland from Mombasa. British Central Africa, however, was a complicated case. On the one hand, it fell under the control of the Foreign Office (FO) as a territory of stategic significance - otherwise, wh at else had the Ultimatum signified? On the other, Rhodes's British South Africa Company (BSAC) had picked up the bill for the first years of its administration and complete amalagamation with the Rhodesias still seemed a possible destiny for the Protectorate.

On the one hand, it fell under the control of the Foreign Office (FO) as a territory of stategic significance - otherwise, wh at else had the Ultimatum signified? On the other, Rhodes's British South Africa Company (BSAC) had picked up the bill for the first years of its administration and complete amalagamation with the Rhodesias still seemed a possible destiny for the Protectorate. I t was to be over half a century before this idea found dubious fruition in the Central African Federation. Meanwhile, uniquely in Britain's tropical colonies in Africa, the decision was that any railway would have to be built by private capital - though the FO (after 1907 the Colonial Office when the protectorate was re-named Nyasaland) was always prepared to consider proposals.

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