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The Change In British Policies And Attitude Toward Africa Between 1938 And 1948

2226 words - 9 pages

The Change in British Policies and Attitude Toward Africa Between 1938 and 1948

The conclusion of the Second World War heralded a new phrase in World
History. The devastation of War saw many European states crumble
economically; a climate of increased American economic dominance is
apparent, and the end of British economic prominence is marked by the
1944 Bretton Woods conference/agreement. Everywhere attitudes were
changing. American disdain for imperialism and the flagging success
of previous administrative methods of indirect rule caused a
re-evolution of policy and attitudes toward Empire and particularly in
Africa. In a key speech in July Malcolm Macdonald, Secretary of State
for the colonies, asserts that the main purpose of the British Empire
is “ the gradual spread of freedom amongst all his Majesty’s subjects,
in whatever part of the earth they live”[1]. From then onwards the
Colonial Office policies in Africa took a new direction, as Africans
were seen less as being determinedly barbarous and tribal, and more
with potential for being cultivated into a mind-set where political
independence can be possible. Speaking in June 1939, Macdonald
proclaims that local populations were everywhere “producing more and
more of their own doctors and nurses, their own school teachers and
agricultural officers, their own civil servants and lawyers, their own
leaders in every walk of life”[2]. In this environment change was
eminent and as seen with the rapid decolonisation of Africa in the
late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Britain sought to administer any such
change before it began to happen from under her.

Following the appointment of Malcolm Macdonald as Secretary of State
for the Colonies in 1938, a new attitude towards Africa was evident in
the Colonial office. This coincides with growing public dislike for
imperial pursuits, with Fascist nations becoming increasing associated
with imperial gain. The actions of Mussolini in Abyssinia and
Hitler’s continued requests for colonial concessions during
appeasement, cemented aversion of empire and racism, many liberal
minded Britons currently held. John Flint speaks of an “almost total
reversal”[3] in attitudes of the Colonial office, from previously
existing mind-sets of the 1920 and 1930’s. Before 1938, the
philosophy of in-direct rule, had been the norm in much of British
African and existed unabated; “as did the economic doctrine,
sacrosanct in the Treasury, that colonies should live off their own
resources”[4]. This approach to Africa had been favourable due to its
economic benefits, as it was undoubtedly the most cost effective way
of maintaining Empire in British African. Moreover this type of rule
frowned upon the emergence of educated Africans, the existence of
classes, and even urbanisation. Such western social staples...

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