Zambia Discussion Group: African Apocalypse - Britain, war and colonial crisis in Northern Rhodesia, 1914-18

Zambia Discussion Group: African Apocalypse - Britain, war and colonial crisis in Northern Rhodesia, 1914-18

Wednesday, 18 May 2016 - 4:00pm to 6:00pm
African Studies Seminar Room, 13 Bevington Road, Oxford
Dr Edmund Yorke (Sandhurst)
Jodie Sun


Dr Edmund Yorke is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of  War Studies at The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.  He originally studied for a BA in Modern History and International Relations and a Masters in Commonwealth History at the Universities of Reading, and Birkbeck College, London.  He completed his doctoral studies at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge in 1984, which included six months fieldwork interviewing a few surviving WW1 African Veterans domiciled in the Eastern Province of Zambia. Originally an Africanist, he now specialises more broadly in British imperial and Commonwealth political and military affairs. He has published widely and his more recent books include The New South Africa ( 1998), Playing the Great Game : Britain War and Politics in Afghanistan since 1839 ( 2012) and Britain , Northern Rhodesia  and the First World War: Forgotten Colonial Crisis  (2015). 

Abstract : African Apocalypse : Britain , war and colonial crisis in Northern Rhodesia , 1914-18

This paper will analyse the impact of total war, the First World War, upon the embryonic, fragile and chronically underdeveloped Northern Rhodesian Colonial State. Using statistics and written records drawn primarily from the National Archives, Kew, the National Archives of Zambia and major missionary archives in London and Rome, this seminar will seek to both illustrate and reveal the hitherto grossly underestimated strength of initial  African responses and their ultimate, widespread resistance to the war's escalating food and labour demands. This, it will be demonstrated, culminated, by 1918, in a full-scale colonial crisis. It was a crisis which which was both fully recognised at ground level and extended up to the highest levels of the British colonial and imperial establishment/authority institutions There will be a special focus on the intrinsically anti- colonial and anti-war Watch Tower Movement  and the overall deleterious impact of the war upon internal social control especially in terms of desertion, tax evasion and rising crime levels as well as extraordinary wartime famine. The latter reflected the disastrous, if still unquantified  consequences for African  household production of the excessive extraction of able-bodied male labour. From a wider perspective, it is hoped that this research will significantly contribute to the current, major revision of the public and official perception of the Great War's global impact which, it is contended, extends far beyond the earlier and predominant portrayals of the GEA campaign as primarily an 'imperial sideshow' or 'forgotten front'.