The production of precarity: industrialization and racial inequality in colonial Zimbabwe

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1344/rhiihr.38047

Keywords:

colonialism, industrialization, urbanization, racial inequality

Abstract

During the mid-twentieth century, the colony of Southern Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) underwent a rapid process of industrial development, leading tens of thousands of black African men to leave overcrowded rural Reserves in search of better economic prospects in burgeoning industrial cities. Cities in Southern Rhodesia promised higher wages relative to rural areas, but many urban black labourers found themselves in precarious economic positions. Few black industrial workers earned wages sufficient to support an urban family; meanwhile, white industrial workers secured wage rates ten times higher, afforded by colonial institutions geared primarily toward serving the needs of white European settlers. This study zooms in on the foundations and consequences of racial inequality in industrializing Southern Rhodesia and also considers the settler colony in comparative perspective relative to other sub-Saharan African colonies – both settler and non-settler – to draw attention to the interplay between economic development, institutions, and inequality in a colonial context.

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Published

2022-07-15

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