Wallace G. Mills Hist. 317 2 World War 1 and effects #

World War 1 and its Effects

- World War 1 brought a great deal of disruption and heavy impacts for many areas and peoples of Africa.


- one of the most important motives for the ‘new’ imperialism of the late 19th C (see the notes for History 316 lecture 19 The Scramble and Motivations) was to gain additional resources, both human and material, to advance to the next level of ‘world power’ in the social darwinist international arena of the late 19th C.

- thus, substantial numbers of Africans participated in the war in Europe.

- the war extended to Africa as well:

Indirect effects

- indirect effects were even more pervasive and widespread than the direct effects; especially significant were the economic effects:

- the end of the war brought further blows:

- by the end of the war, a couple of trends that had long term and increasing importance in the 20th C—urbanisation and migration—were already emerging.

- people migrate, especially to port cities, for jobs and opportunities; in the cities, they are separated from kin and the social and economic supports that kin provide. Their economic situation is more vulnerable to unemployment or illnesses; they are subject to the variations and vicissitudes of world markets and conditions. People are changed from subsistence farmers to urban workers and often have few supports to replace the ones they have lost.

- disturbances & reactions occurred in a number of places:

- the resulting unrest raised some critical questions about colonial policies and practices.

- as was noted in the overview lecture, by the end of WW1 the ideological climate and context was changed; the war, which in Allied propaganda had been fought for democracy against militarism and autocracy, had produced much discussion about rights—both individual and collective (e.g., political and civil rights for individuals and self-determination for groups and peoples).

- on the African side, some had begun to get western education (especially after the turn of the century, a few Africans had begun to go abroad for higher education, but mission education had produced larger numbers—teachers and preachers—who were literate and interested in world events); as a result (in British colonies), this western-educated elite was beginning to ask for (it was initially very polite so ‘demand’ may be a bit strong) greater opportunity to participate in governing and political decision-making. They also started newspapers which could be sharply critical of colonial governments and officials (these were only tolerated in British colonies and not always happily there either; British traditions of free speech and free press eventually gave some latitude). The point to note is that this minority elite was already dissatisfied and articulate.

- all such requests were rejected either outright or declared to be greatly premature (the rationale: only a few—a tiny minority—were able to understand or participate properly and it would be wrong to give them special privileges; in fact, many of the officials involved in the colonial policy debate even rejected the idea that the western-educated minority was ‘ready’. Racism was still at very high levels in western societies from the high points reached just before 1914). Nevertheless, especially in Britain where the Labour Party was strongly critical of colonial policies, this was part of the background against which debate about and creation of colonial policies took place.

- on the other side of the colonial equation, the imperial powers of Europe were significantly poorer than they had been before 1914. Thus, there was more emphasis on making colonies pay their own way and even get them to add to the wealth and well-being of the imperial country. In any case, there was a large interest in policies that would develop the economic resources of the colonies.

- the new imperatives and moral issues introduced during W.W. 1 (self determination, a war for liberty and democracy, etc.) made some of the cruder social darwinism less acceptable; crude exploitation had to be avoided or at least not expressed. Instead, new theories were put forward:

- this background was very important in the 1920s as the search for and debate about the best colonial policies took place.

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