From the 1930s, all colonial administrations in sub-Saharan Africa were faced with a complicated task. In an increasingly hostile international environment, after the frustrating experiences of World War II and confronted with new, emancipationist tendencies among the African populations themselves, they had to find a strategy to integrate part of the African elite as collaborators in a paternalist, but nonetheless modernising project – and they had to find this strategy fast!
The group of potential collaborators was confusingly large, including so-called ‘traditional chiefs’ on the one hand, so-called ‘modern educated natives’ on the other hand. African experiences under Portuguese and French rule are part of that pattern, but they also form a particular context, because those two colonial powers were committed, in their ideology, to the assimilation of the African population as principal element of their ‘civilising mission’. The interplay between them and their African collaborators was thus particularly ambiguous.
Martin Behaim Book Prize, 2006, of the Gesellschaft für Überseegeschichte