Colonialism and Development: Britain and Its Tropical Colonies, 1850-1960

By Michael Havinden; David Meredith | Go to book overview

7

The economics of ‘trusteeship’

Colonial development policy, 1921-9

British government funds for any kind of colonial economic development up to the early 1920s were meagre. Table 7.1 sets out the major loans and grants according to the Treasury’s accounts. Over 90 per cent of the funds provided went to railway construction, nearly all of it in East and Central Africa. All but 2 per cent of the financial assistance was in the form of loans, the interest payments on which had to be met from the start of the loan period. This was not a satisfactory record in the view of the imperialists who took charge of colonial affairs during and after the First World War: Lord Milner, Leopold Amery, William Ormsby-Gore and J.H. Thomas. 1 Their aim was to provide more money, possibly on easier terms, in a more comprehensive programme of colonial development. As the unemployment situation in Britain deteriorated in the early 1920s the need for Britain to take measures to stimulate colonial economic development could be portrayed as being more urgent. 2


COLONIAL DEVELOPMENT POLICY AND THE POLITICS OF UNEMPLOYMENT

By 1921 it was becoming clear that the industrial dislocation and high levels of unemployment of 1919 and 1920 were not temporary phenomena caused by the return to peacetime conditions, but a more fundamental problem requiring vigorous action. The unemployment crisis also brought the problems of colonial development to the Cabinet’s attention, for it seemed clear to the government that one aspect of the problem was a lack of demand for British goods and that the colonial empire might become an important source of orders. The Colonial Office assured the Cabinet in October 1921 that ‘everything possible is being done to enable the Colonies to make a substantial contribution towards the immediate problem of placing orders in this country’. In addition to immediate orders the colonial empire would be raising £25 million for schemes already contemplated, plus a further £20 million if the colonies in question could raise the necessary loans. Finally, a further

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