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THE IMPACT OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION ON NORTHERN RHODESIA

M.H.Y. Kaniki
Transafrican Journal of History
Vol. 24 (1995), pp. 131-150
Published by: Gideon Were Publications
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24328659
Page Count: 20
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THE IMPACT OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION ON NORTHERN RHODESIA
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Abstract

The Great Depression (1929-1935) has so far been the darkest episode in the history of capitalist economies during the twentieth century. Until relatively recently, it was assumed by scholars and others that only the mature economies of the West experienced depressed economic activity during this period of adversity. But recent research has shown that even economies of Africa and other peripheral areas experienced substantial impact of these hard times. Northern Rhodesia (present day Zambia) was one of such peripheral regions. By the 1920s, capitalist penetration through mining and commercial agriculture had affected the country's economy to an appreciable degree. Thousands of workers had come to depend on these two sectors for their livelihood in addition to employment outside the country. These were hit hardest through reduced wages and retrenchment. But owners of capital, especially farmers, were not spared either. Some of them became bankrupt. Apparently, nobody knew exactly how to handle the crisis, and apart from scattered efforts to reduce taxation, the colonial state was in no mood to reduce the burden of the working masses and peasants. Thousands of those rejected by the labour market withdrew to the rural areas and took refuge in agricultural production. Their participation in this sector boosted production but also threatened the security of white settlers who increasingly demanded state protection through legislation. Significantly depressed economic activity persisted for years after the depression had ended in the mature economies.

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