Britain, France and the Decolonization of Africa

Future Imperfect?

Edited by Andrew W.M. Smith and Chris Jeppesen

ISBN: 9781911307730

Publication: March 01, 2017

What is this?
Looking at decolonization in the conditional tense, this volume teases out the complex and uncertain ends of British and French empire in Africa during the period of ‘late colonial shift’ after 1945. Rather than view decolonization as an inevitable process, the contributors together explore the crucial historical moments in which change was negotiated, compromises were made, and debates were staged.

Three core themes guide the analysis: development, contingency and entanglement. The chapters consider the ways in which decolonization was governed and moderated by concerns about development and profit. A complementary focus on contingency allows deeper consideration of how colonial powers planned for ‘colonial futures’, and how divergent voices greeted the end of empire. Thinking about entanglements likewise stresses both the connections that existed between the British and French empires in Africa, and those that endured beyond the formal transfer of power.

Praise for Britain, France and the Decolonization of Africa

'…this ambitious volume represents a significant step forward for the field. As is often the case with rich and stimulating work, the volume gestures towards more themes than I have space to properly address in this review. These include shifting terrains of temporality, spatial Scales, and state sovereignty, which together raise important questions about the relationship between decolonization and globalization. By bringing all of these crucial issues into the same frame, Britain, France and the Decolonization of Africa is sure to inspire new thought-provoking research.'

- H-France vol. 17, issue 205

'This is a work on imperial history the way it should be done.'

History: Reviews of New Books

Andrew W.M. Smith is a historian of the French and Francophone world. His work focuses on concepts of centre and periphery, analysing various contexts in which this relationship has shaped developments within and beyond the structures of the modern state. Smith is currently Teaching Fellow at UCL and the Secretary of the Society for the Study of French History.

Chris Jeppesen is a historian of Britain and the British empire during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His work focuses on the shifting place of empire within British culture, in particular in the period after the Second World War. He has previously written on the motivation behind careers in empire during the twentieth century, and is currently Teaching Fellow at UCL.

Introduction: development, contingency and entanglement: decolonization in the conditional
Andrew W. M. Smith and Chris Jeppesen

Section 1 Development

1. Nation, state and agency: evolving historiographies of African decolonization
Michael Collins

2. ‘The winds of change are blowing economically’: the Labour Party and British overseas development, 1940s–1960s
Charlotte Lydia Riley

3. ‘Oil will set us free’: the hydrocarbon industry and the Algerian decolonization process
Marta Musso

Section 2 Contingency

4. Future imperfect: colonial futures, contingencies and the end of French empire
Andrew W. M. Smith

5. The dynamics of anti-apartheid: international solidarity, human rights and decolonization
Robert Skinner

Section 3 Entanglement 

6. ‘A worthwhile career for a man who is not entirely self-seeking’: service, duty and the Colonial Service during decolonization
Chris Jeppesen

7. Protecting empire from without: francophone African migrant workers, British West Africa and French efforts to maintain power in Africa, 1945–1960
Joanna Warson

Conclusion: the conditional as a category
Chris Jeppesen and Andrew W. M. Smith

Afterword: Achilles and the tortoise: the tortoise’s view of late colonialism and decolonization
Martin Shipway


Select bibliography


'... On the whole the collection offers some stimulating points, such as Martin Shipway's final remarks ... Marta Musso's persuasive discussion on the diplomatic struggle for control of hydrocarbon resources during the Algerian War of Independence ... and a compelling chapter by Joanna Warson on how the French responded to migratory flows of Francophone Africans to British West Africa.' 
  Journal of the International African Institute
'This is a work on imperial history the way it should be done.'
  History: Reviews of New Books

Format: Open Access PDF

254 Pages

ISBN: 9781911307730

Publication: March 01, 2017

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