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Charney, Michael W. (2010) Making Sense Of Strange Places: Mining And Railway Construction In Burma And The Gold Coast In The Early Twentieth Century. In: University of Michigan Center for Southeast Asian Studies Public Lectures, 17 September 2010, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan, 1636 SSWB/International Institute. (Unpublished)

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Deciding whether or not the colonial state was interested in supporting economic development depends upon the interpretation of a vast and often internally contradictory range of correspondence and government decisions in numerous offices, the field of activity under scrutiny, and the period under examination. Mining and railways, the focus here, were kindred enterprises in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Both were dependent on heavy machinery, the same kinds of energy resources, and, in different ways, a cooperative State. Railways were generally more certain bets for investment, while mining was more regularly the problem child of the colonial world.The present paper examines the relationship between the colonial state and railway construction and mining in colonial Burma and Ghana from the mid-1890s, in the context of the building of the coast-Kumasi route and the Mandalay-Lashio railway and the latter’s connection with the Burma mining railway. It was during the construction of these particular lines that tensions over routes regarding their comparative merits relative to economic development or military and political security occurred. The activities of the railway engineers and mining entrepreneurs examined here indicate the unplanned nature of railway expansion and other aspects of economic development. But these two case studies also suggest some of the dangers of emphasizing too much a singular imperial world over local nuances in seeking to understand colonial history.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Items (Lecture)
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies > Department of History
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of History
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2010 12:29

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