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Book Chapter

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The Oxford Handbook of Modern African History

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This chapter sketches a history of European colonial states in Africa, north and south of the Sahara, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It explains when and why colonial states emerged, what they did, how they worked, and who shaped them. Noting discrepancies between the theory and practice of colonial administration, the chapter shows that colonial administration was far more diffuse and less closely coordinated than official discourses of governance suggested. The performance of colonialism involved a wide range of actors: not only European military and civilian elites and African chiefs, but also African translators and tax collectors, as well as European forestry experts, missionaries, anthropologists, and settlers. The chapter also considers debates over reconciling the violence and exploitation of colonial states with their claims to, and aspirations for, social development in Africa, particularly in light of their relationship to the postcolonial states that succeeded them.

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Copyright © Oxford University Press, 2013


colonialism, imperialism, nationalism, postcolonialism, development, labour control, colonial states, colonial conquests, migration



Date Posted: 04 November 2015

This document has been peer reviewed.