Party Politics and Decolonization: The Conservative Party and British Colonial Policy in Tropical Africa, 1951-1964

By Philip N. Murphy | Go to book overview

3
The Conservative Party and Settler Pressure

European Settlers in British Africa

The response of the Conservative party to the decolonization of East and Central Africa cannot be understood without an appreciation of the impact of European settler lobbying upon the party. Although British withdrawal from West Africa aroused few strong reactions from within the party, the sense of solidarity which many Conservatives felt towards the settlers of Kenya and the Central African Federation made the fate of these areas a question of major importance. Yet the voices which Conservatives heard from these communities did not all preach the same message, nor were they transmitted to London in the same way.

There were certain obvious differences between the patterns of European settlement in Kenya and Central Africa which might have been expected to have had an effect on the lobbies which emerged from these areas. The European settlers of the Federation made up a far larger proportion of the population as a whole than did their counterparts in Kenya. The ratio of non-Europeans to Europeans in Kenya was 93 : 1 whereas in the Federation as a whole it was 26 : 1 and in Southern Rhodesia 13 : 1.1 Although the Europeans of the Federation were still heavily outnumbered, their firm control of the internal security apparatus put them in a relatively strong position to defend their interests by force if necessary. The social composition of the settler communities also differed. In East Africa the European population consisted mainly of civil servants, farmers, and businessmen, a large proportion of whom, in common with Europeans in other parts of the Empire, retained strong links with Great Britain and returned there upon retirement.2 Southern Rhodesia, by contrast, had a far larger European skilled working class. Leys calculates, on the basis of the 1951 census results, that whereas only 7.7 per cent of the working population of Southern Rhodesia was employed in the professions and

____________________
1
Miles Kahler, Decolonization in Britain and France ( 1984), 317.
2
Lewis H. Gann and Peter Duignan, White Settlers in Tropical Africa ( 1962), 63.

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