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


Local cynicism

Wouldn’t there be more confidence in Government spending – which all too often seems to be a terrible waste of money on buildings which fall down and schemes that won’t work – if the contractors and officials in charge of such things were answerable to the public in some obvious way?

This question from a 1956 edition of If you ask me… demonstrates a second category of cynicism from Africans towards development, less wary of motivation and more concerned about shoddy results or misuse of funds.

This kind of cynicism links more closely with a local understanding of development as opposed to an international one and, sadly, often seemed to come from a place of experience. 

The public-facing periodicals actually occasionally represent these views, as is illustrated from articles in the Uganda review from 1952 and 1953: ‘The argument is sometimes advanced that Uganda is already sufficiently rich and that further development is unnecessary. But they are usually presented as ignorant views and immediately rebutted: ‘the world market marches on and this cannot be relied upon.’

This debate is illustrated in the question below:

‘Some people ask why it is necessary to build a railway to the west. Yet they grumble about the state of the roads in that direction.’

As ever, the more emotionally charged and revealing information about these views is found in If you ask me…, where questioners frequently asked, ‘what is the point?’ 

  • ‘Why should money be spent on scientific research in the colonies when there are so many more pressing things that need doing?’
  • ‘I am always reading that our agricultural methods are out of date and that we should follow the West and mechanise. But what is the point of this if there isn’t any industry to absorb the people who are thrown out of work by the machines?’
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