Elder Dempster and West Africa, 1891-c.1940: The Genesis of Underdevelopment?

This article examines the policies and activities of the Elder Dempster (ED) Company in West Africa during the period 1884-1940. The company was created out of six separate shipping companies by Alfred Jones, a British imperialist who had started life as a shipping clerk. By the time of Jones’s death in 1909 the company had known interests worldwide in shipping, banking, insurance, coals, agriculture, ship-repair, hotels, cement, pharmaceuticals and mining. The author argues that ED was one of the European companies which made a major contribution to what is today called African underdevelopment and that this was achieved with the full cooperation of the British government. This is shown by an analysis of the activities of the British Bank of West Africa (BBWA), the West African Shipping Conference, the British Cotton Growing Association (BCGA), and ED’s coaling companies, ED’s involvement in the construction of railways, the company’s approach to African labour and trade unions, and its relationship with the imperial and colonial governments. Notes, ref.

Title: Elder Dempster and West Africa, 1891-c.1940: The Genesis of Underdevelopment?
Author: Sherwood, Marika
Year: 1997
Periodical: International Journal of African Historical Studies
Volume: 30
Issue: 2
Pages: 253-276
Language: English
Geographic terms: West Africa
Great Britain
External link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/221228
Abstract: This article examines the policies and activities of the Elder Dempster (ED) Company in West Africa during the period 1884-1940. The company was created out of six separate shipping companies by Alfred Jones, a British imperialist who had started life as a shipping clerk. By the time of Jones’s death in 1909 the company had known interests worldwide in shipping, banking, insurance, coals, agriculture, ship-repair, hotels, cement, pharmaceuticals and mining. The author argues that ED was one of the European companies which made a major contribution to what is today called African underdevelopment and that this was achieved with the full cooperation of the British government. This is shown by an analysis of the activities of the British Bank of West Africa (BBWA), the West African Shipping Conference, the British Cotton Growing Association (BCGA), and ED’s coaling companies, ED’s involvement in the construction of railways, the company’s approach to African labour and trade unions, and its relationship with the imperial and colonial governments. Notes, ref.