Social Scientist. v 27, no. 314-315 (July-Aug 1999) p. 140.

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Governing Africa: the Imperial Mind in British Colonies, 1938-1947, in the Light of Indian Experience


The paper will begin by considering the influence of India on colonial thought about governing Africa, and will go on to look at how certain themes which contemporaries identified in India can be explored in Africa - though often in a contrasting way. The paper will focus on aspects of conceptions about empire during the war period (and just afterwards), how these conceptions were articulated in publicity about the colonies, how empire was conceived by politicians, civil servants and others. There will be a consideration of the discontinuities between the new policies that were adopted, and a recognition that there were slow changes in the constructed imperial worlds.

An introductory point, raising some themes for the paper is a comment made by Low in Eclipse of Empire. In looking at the period between 1947 and 1964 he talks about independence in African colonies coming about like rows of dominoes toppling over. Indeed, in many of the general accounts of decolonization the view is put forward that the first of the dominoes to fall was in 1947 with the independence of India and Pakistan, leading to lines of dominoes in Asia, and eventually in Africa.1 If one takes, however, the perspective of the period 1938 to 1947, and studies the way the colonial rulers thought at the time, and how they saw the future, there seems to emerge a different picture: rather than India being in the vanguard of a glorious procession, there was the view by many in colonial circles that India was a contrasting case to Africa, because the wrong direction had been taken. Efforts needed to be made in Africa not to follow

e of St. Mark &c St. John, Plymouth, England

^"?/ Scientist, Vol. 27, Nos. 7- 8, July - August 1999

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