King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
Hidden voices of Empire

Anti-imperialist cynicism

It’s all very well to talk about the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund and the “kindness” of the United Kingdom to the colonies, but isn’t this “kindness” more than cancelled out by the fact that the UK dictates the whole of our economic policy to us?

A question submitted to the publication If you ask me…  regarding exploitationQuestions submitted to If you ask me… from 1955One African attitude towards development completely missing from the indigenous-facing periodicals is politically aware cynicism of British motives.

This is unsurprising given the pro-government biases of the publications. Indeed, the charter of the West Africa annual, which had its origins in development, pledged ‘to give general support to Government policy’.

While the answers provided to questions by the editors of If you ask me… always tended towards the official narrative – that development improved living standards in the name of ultimate self-government – the questions themselves displayed a more than healthy degree of cynicism.

This cynicism is illustrated in the questions reproduced here, which come from a 1955 edition of If you ask me… As well as the Welfare Fund, the questions ponder the creation of the Federation of the West Indies and the development and use of pharmaceutical drugs.

The dollar gap

‘Is it true that the colonies are making up Britain’s dollar deficit instead of using all their dollar earnings for their own needs?’ was a question asked frequently in the 1950s ‘particularly in colonies like Nigeria and the Gold Coast which do at present earn large dollar surpluses.’

After the Second World War, the United Kingdom was greatly financially indebted to the United States but continued to need more American imports than it could afford, creating and worsening the so-called ‘dollar gap’. This was where resource-rich West African, Caribbean, and South-East Asian colonies came in, providing a much-needed supply of dollars to the sterling area.

Many historians have found this to be a key motivating factor behind the acceleration of Britain’s development policy in the 1940s and 1950s, through their work with government and corporation sources. It is therefore particularly interesting to see this level of understanding in the colonies, where British-run periodicals tried so hard to present development as purely altruistic.

ARCHIOS™ | Total time:0.2496 s | Source:database | Platform: NX