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About this book

This book examines the economic and business history of Sudan, placing Sudan into the wider context of the impact of imperialism on economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. From the 1870s onwards British interest(s) in Sudan began to intensify, a consequence of the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the overseas expansion of British business activities associated with the Scramble for Africa and the renewal of imperial impulses in the second half of the nineteenth century. Mollan shows the gradual economic embrace of imperialism in the years before 1899; the impact of imperialism on the economic development of colonial Sudan to 1956; and then the post-colonial economic legacy of imperialism into the 1970s.

This text highlights how state-centred economic activity was developed in cooperation with British international business. Founded on an economic model that was debt-driven, capital intensive, and cash-crop oriented–the colonial economy of Sudan was centred on cotton growing. This model locked Sudan into a particular developmental path that, in turn, contributed to the nature and timing of decolonization, and the consequent structures of dependency in the post-colonial era.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

1. Introduction

Abstract
This chapter introduced the approach of the book and its main themes. The book is a work of business history, economic history and historical political-economy. The chief focus is on the economic power structures and processes of British imperialism as they were exerted over Sudan both before the period of formal colonization. The periodology used in the book is explained. The chapter then identifies the three key historiographical debates to which the book contributes. These are, first, in relation to the development of a cash-crop economy as a means of supporting the colonial state, which had a long-term impact on the trajectory of the economy. Second, it explores the issue of ‘business imperialism’ (i.e., the ways in which business was a vector of imperialism). And third, the book focuses on the ‘Gentlemanly Capitalist’ imperialism, a historical theory of British imperialism that links the development and maintenance of the British empire in the periphery to the rise of a ‘Gentlemanly Order’ in the metropole (i.e., Britain). The main argument of the book is identified. The chapter then outlines the structure of the book and summarizes the chapters that follow.
Simon Mollan

Foundations of Imperialism in Sudan

Frontmatter

2. British Business and Sudan During the Mahdiya

Abstract
This chapter explores British business and economic engagement with Sudan in the period before the ‘Reconquest’ of 1898/1899. It examines how commercial enterprise was suggested as means of opposing the slavery and the slave trade, and how this was, in turn, bound up with various Victorian anxieties and popular causes. The chapter begins by discussing the geo-politics of the North Africa-Red Sea region, before turning to the imperial culture in the late Victorian period. Here the notion of the ‘imperial gothic’ is used to examine how some British imperialists began to imagine Sudan as an exotic land of untold riches. From this stemmed a form of entrepreneurialism that led to the creation of a number of enterprises that sought to develop business in Sudan. Though all of them failed, by examining them and the entrepreneurs who created them, the imperial ambitions of both the British state and the business community with reference to Sudan are revealed. This paved the way for later colonial business ventures in Sudan while also prefiguring the relationship between the Sudan government and business during the colonial period.
Simon Mollan

3. The Beginnings of Imperial Development, 1899–1919

Abstract
This chapter traces the economic history of Sudan from the time of the Reconquest in 1899 to the end of the First World War. It examines the development of the economy in terms of exports and trade, transport and services. The chapter shows how in the first years of the Condominium there was growth in the economy based on agricultural outputs, but that there was also a failure to attract investment or develop a business sector. It then goes on to look at the impact of the First World War, during which time economic progress diminished. The argument presented in this chapter is that relatively little progress was made in developing the economy of Sudan during the first twenty years of British imperial rule. Inward investment and business enterprises had not flourished, and the state had become central to the colonial economy. The chapter concludes by examining Sudan government finances and state-led capital infrastructure. In contrast with other British colonies in sub-Saharan Africa, Sudan did comparatively well in obtaining capital for infrastructure.
Simon Mollan

Business and Imperialism in Sudan

Frontmatter

4. The Sudan Plantations Syndicate, 1904–1919

Abstract
This chapter focuses on the Sudan Plantations Syndicate, the cotton-growing business that was to become the centre of the Sudan economy during the period of British colonialism in Sudan. It begins by looking at the entrepreneurial origins of the company, and how, over time, it was to establish the viability of cotton-growing in Sudan. The chapter examines in detail the wider business linkages of the company, and how it was embedded into a network of colonial enterprises headquartered in the City of London, but with interests across the British Empire. The organization, development and finances of the firm are discussed. The chapter shows how, over time, an entrepreneurial speculation became central to the Sudan government’s plans to develop the economy of Sudan by focusing on cotton as a cash-crop. However, the chapter also shows how slow has been the progress of developing commercial cotton-growing.
Simon Mollan

5. The Sudan Plantations Syndicate, 1919–1939

Abstract
This chapter continues the history of the Sudan Plantations Syndicate that was begun in Chap. 4. The chapter traces how the Gezira Scheme—the cotton-growing scheme that was developed in partnership between the Syndicate, the Sudan government, and the tenant farmers—was gradually brought into operation between 1919 and 1925. The chapter looks at the management of the business and the Gezira Scheme. It then turns to the issues of leadership, management and strategy, and ownership and control. The impact of the Great Depression on the Sudan Plantations Syndicate is also examined. This is further developed in Chap. 6. The Depression was a significant period of difficulty for the company, leading to concerns for the commercial viability of the company both within the management and for the shareholders. The company struggled throughout the 1930s, during which period its directors and managers became aware of its precarious relationship with the Sudan government, on whom it was politically dependent. This, in turn, was a forerunner of the move towards nationalization of the firm prior to decolonization.
Simon Mollan

The Political-Economy of Imperialism in Sudan

Frontmatter

6. The Economy of Sudan, 1919–1939

Abstract
This chapter examines the history of the Sudan economy across the inter-war period, focusing on the impact of the Great Depression. Cotton was badly affected by the depression, and there was a significant fall in cotton prices on world markets, to which Sudan exported its cotton. Compounding these adverse market conditions, as a result of disease in the cotton crop, the yield of cotton also dropped. This led to a significant fall in the amount of cotton exported. Not only did this put the Sudan Plantations Syndicate under pressure but also the tenant farmers working on the Gezira Scheme experienced economic hardship and the finances of the Sudan government became distressed. In turn, this led to the significant retrenchment of government expenditure. All of this revealed the fragility of the cash-crop economy that has been developed and encouraged the Sudan government towards a kind of colonial ‘economic nationalism,’ increasingly hostile to their business partners in the Sudan Plantations Syndicate.
Simon Mollan

7. The Relationship Between Business and Government to 1945

Abstract
This chapter explores the political and structural relationship between the Sudan Plantations Syndicate and the Sudan government across the years of their partnership, c.1907–1945. The chapter examines the technical aspects of the relationship, focusing in particular on the negotiations of the various agreements that established the framework for the governance of the Gezira Scheme and set the terms of the political-economic compact formed between the different parties, including the imperial government in London. The first section of the chapter looks at the structure of the loan agreements issued with a UK Treasury guarantee that were used to finance infrastructure projects, covering the period to 1919. The second section of the chapter then looks at the inter-war revisions to the agreements between business and government that were, in part, driven by the economic experience of the great depression. The third section of the chapter then turns to the issue of taxation and how the tax burdens were shared between the different parties to the Gezira Scheme, and how changes over time in those burdens reflected shifting political power, in this case away from business and to the state.
Simon Mollan

8. War, Decolonization and After

Abstract
This chapter brings together the different strands of analysis developed in the preceding chapters and explores how the various themes developed in the book—the role of business and the state in the economy, especially—were affected by the Second World War and then by decolonization. The first section of the chapter examines economic performance covering the period from 1939 until after decolonization, which formally occurred in 1956. The second section of the chapter traces the history of the end of the Sudan Plantations Syndicate’s concession to run cotton-growing in the Gezira Scheme. This foregrounds the third section of the chapter, which looks at the end of the Sudan Plantations Syndicate as an active business. The fourth section then examines the economic performance in the immediate post-colonial period from 1956 to circa the early 1970s. The final section of the chapter looks at the ways in which Sudan became indebted in the post-colonial period, focusing on the role of the World Bank.
Simon Mollan

Conclusion

Frontmatter

9. Conclusion: Business, Imperialism and the Organization of Economic Development in Sudan

Abstract
This chapter discusses the principal conclusions of the book. It first of all asks whether Sudan was economically different from other sub-Saharan African colonies within the British Empire and concludes that it was comparable in terms of development policy and indebtedness. The conclusion then considers the main historiographical debates used to frame the book. The second section examines the issue of business imperialism and concludes that the centrality of business to the colonial state, and its influence, diminished over time. The third section of the chapter discusses imperialism in Sudan with reference to the ‘Gentlemanly Capitalist’ theory of British imperialism and similarly concludes that it was this historiographical theory is not especially applicable to Sudan. As a counter explanation the chapter then discusses the significance of the state as an economic actor in Sudan. The chapter concludes by looking at the legacies of imperialism that, even through decolonization, established a degree of continuity in the position of Sudan in relationship to the main economic powers in the international political economy. The chapter closes by discussing the potential for a theory of ‘imperial organization,’ based on empirical studies such as this book.
Simon Mollan

Backmatter

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