Developing the East African: The East Africa Royal Commission, 1953-1955, and its critics
Hood, Andrew James
Wiener, Martin J.
Doctor of Philosophy
The East Africa Royal Commission, 1953-55, was a wide-ranging investigation of the necessary conditions for promoting the economic development of the colonial dependencies of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika. Commissioners conceived their task as apolitical, but evidence gathered from government officials and the public--including members of the African, Asian, and European communities within the region--demonstrated that politics and economics were not easily separable. Officials, settlers, and Africans presented contending historical narratives explaining the past, present, and future of East Africa. African witnesses took the opportunity to address the state, demanding redress for the injustices of colonialism. In their report, the commissioners suppressed the African dissent, largely ignored settler demands, and privileged much of the official narrative. The commission presented colonial development, achieved through multiracial cooperation, as the hope for East Africa's future. The report detailed the technical, and administrative requirements for future economic growth, but ultimately their proposals hinged upon the "human factor," especially the problem of winning the willing cooperation of the African people for the development program. The work of the commission revealed divisions among its members over the question of the degree of government intervention and control that should be exerted in the economy; the laissez-faire tone of the report was tempered by its substantive recommendations, which sanctioned continued official guidance of development plans. Following the report's publication, British commentators in government and among the public took up the debate. Left-wing critics denounced the document as a free-market tract that proposed exposing Africans to the full blast of an agricultural and industrial revolution, similar to that which had inflicted suffering upon British workers in the nineteenth century, without attempting to cushion the effects. Some of them also demanded faster movement towards self-government in the colonies. Conservatives rejected that idea, although they did generally support continued, paternalistic interventions by colonial officials. Despite the United Kingdom's evident inability to finance the recommended program of development, many commentators from different ideological perspectives viewed development as the culmination of Britain's imperial mission.
African history; European history