Nationalism and the Transfer of Power

  • William Tordoff


In Africa, we are dealing with ‘anti-colonial nationalism’, a nationalism that was predominantly expressed within the confines of the colonial state, whose boundaries rarely coincided with those of traditional polities.1 As compared with European nationalism, there were no strong historical and social identities upon which African nationalists could build; ethnically homogeneous Somalia was a partial exception, but was itself divided into a number of competing clans. This is not to suggest, however, that Africa was a tabula rasa when colonial rule was imposed: as we saw in Chapter 2, many different forms of political organisation existed in pre-colonial Africa, ranging from centralised kingdoms to stateless societies; there was also a rich variety of cultural forms, though no shared culture such as would have been provided by a system of universal primary education.2 The problem facing anti-colonial nationalists was that popular loyalties tended to gravitate towards a traditional unit which in the great majority of cases lay within, rather than being coterminous with, the colonial state boundaries (the Buganda kingdom within the Uganda protectorate affords a good example of this phenomenon). One of the nationalists’ most important achievements during the independence struggle was to render loyalty to a sub-national unit secondary to loyalty to the country-wide unit — in other words, to submerge sub-nationalism within a wider nationalism.


Political Party Labour Movement Gold Coast Colonial Rule Cocoa Farmer 
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Further Reading

  1. Austin, D., Politics in Ghana, 1946–60 (London: Oxford University Press, 1964).Google Scholar
  2. Coleman, J. S., Nigeria: Background to Nationalism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1958).Google Scholar
  3. Collier, R. B., Regimes in Tropical Africa: Changing Forms of Supremacy, 1945–75 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  4. Flint, J., ‘The Failure of Planned Decolonisation in British Africa’, African Affairs, vol. 82, no. 328 (July 1983).Google Scholar
  5. Gifford, P. and Louis, W. R. (eds), The Transfer of Power in Africa. Decolonization, 1940–1960 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  6. Iliffe, J. A., A Modern History of Tanganyika (Cambridge University Press, 1979).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Katjavivi, P. H., A History of Resistance in Namibia (London: James Currey, 1988).Google Scholar
  8. Morgenthau, R. S., Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964).Google Scholar
  9. Simon, D., ‘Decolonisation and Local Government in Namibia: The Neo-Apartheid Plan, 1977–83’, Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 23, no. 3 (1985).Google Scholar
  10. Smith, A. D., ‘A Comparative Study of French and British Decolonisation’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 20 (1978).Google Scholar
  11. Suret-Canale, J., Afrique Noire. De la Colonisation aux Indépendances, 1945–1960 (Paris: Editions Sociales, 1972).Google Scholar
  12. Young, C., Politics in the Congo: Decolonisation and Independence (Princeton University Press, 1965).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© William Tordoff 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Tordoff
    • 1
  1. 1.DerbyshireUK

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