A state of underdevelopment: sovereignty, nation-building and labor in Liberia 1898–1961

Whyte, C. (2017) A state of underdevelopment: sovereignty, nation-building and labor in Liberia 1898–1961. International Labor and Working-Class History, 92, pp. 24-46. (doi: 10.1017/S0147547917000084)

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In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Liberia was in the unusual position of being a colony with no metropole. Without military or financial support, the settlers’ control over their territory remained weak. Surrounding European empires preyed on this weakness, and Americo-Liberian rule was often at risk from coalitions of European forces and indigenous African resistance. From the early twentieth century, the political elite took on the concept of “development” as a central part of government policy in an attempt to gain political and economic control of the hinterland areas and stave off European incursions. This policy involved the extension and reinforcement of labor policies and practices that had developed through the nineteenth century as means to incorporate settlers and indigenous people into Liberian society. When these plans failed, huge swathes of territory were turned over to foreign commercial interests in an attempt to bolster Liberian claims to sovereignty. And after the Second World War, new policies of “community development” introduced by international agencies again tried to solve Liberia's “land and labor” problem through resettlement. At each stage developmentalist rationales were deployed in order to facilitate greater government control over the Liberian interior territory.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Whyte, Dr Christine
Authors: Whyte, C.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:International Labor and Working-Class History
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN (Online):1471-6445
Published Online:10 November 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 International Labor and Working-Class History, Inc.
First Published:First published in International Labor and Working-Class History 92: 24-46
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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