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The Demographics of Empire

The Colonial Order and the Creation of Knowledge

Karl Ittmann

Publication Year: 2010

The Demographics of Empire is a collection of essays examining the multifaceted nature of the colonial science of demography in the last two centuries. The contributing scholars of Africa and the British and French empires focus on three questions: How have historians, demographers, and other social scientists understood colonial populations? What were the demographic realities of African societies and how did they affect colonial systems of power? Finally, how did demographic theories developed in Europe shape policies and administrative structures in the colonies? The essays approach the subject as either broad analyses of major demographic questions in Africa’s history or focused case studies that demonstrate how particular historical circumstances in individual African societies contributed to differing levels of fertility, mortality, and migration. Together, the contributors to The Demographics of Empire question demographic orthodoxy, and in particular the assumption that African societies in the past exhibited a single demographic regime characterized by high fertility and high mortality.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page/Copyright/Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

This book grew out of a workshop held at Texas Southern University (TSU) in Houston on 8–9 November 2002, which was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Languages Program. The editors would like to thank the other colleagues who...

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Counting Subjects: Demography and Empire

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pp. 1-21

This statement still holds true more than a quarter century later. The challenge facing scholars interested in the historical demography of Africa remains the need to balance defensible demographic analysis with the effort to reflect the complexities of African history. The broader reproduction of any society is a combination of births, deaths, and migrations related to strategies that individuals and social...

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1. African Historical Demography in the Postmodern and Postcolonial Eras

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pp. 22-58

At the Third African Population Congress held in Durban, South Africa, in 1999, I presented a “census” of publications on African historical demography that had appeared since two landmark Edinburgh seminars on the topic in 1977 and 1981.1 My aim was to show demographers working on Africa—most of whose research is astonishingly ahistorical—that in recent decades, the labors of historians,...

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2. “Where Nature Dominates Man”: Demographic Ideas and Policy in British Colonial Africa, 1890–1970

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pp. 59-88

Amery expressed the prevailing view of African population among British officials during the interwar era, which focused on the problem of underpopulation. Yet within thirty years, officials began to warn about the dangers of overpopulation in Africa. This rapid shift occurred despite the fact that officials lacked accurate demographic information about the continent.2 Rather, it reflected changed per-...

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3. How to Count the Subjects of Empire?: Steps toward an Imperial Demography in French West Africa before 1946

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pp. 89-112

The gathering of population data contributed to the birth of official statistics in European states,1 and as such, it assured the preeminence of modern state structures in the management of human resources. In contrast, colonial expansion constituted a privileged ground on which to test and practice mercantilist-inspired ideologies. Commercial and demographic statistics about the colonies would both...

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4. Makwerekwere: Separating Immigrants and Natives in Early Colonial Natal

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pp. 113-129

Modern colonial states found themselves in one of two anxiety-provoking situations. In what Philip Curtin calls “true empire” colonies, small numbers of officials from the imperial center attempted to rule overwhelming numbers of indigenes, who responded with varying degrees of cooperation and resistance. In what Curtin calls “settlement empire” colonies, relatively small numbers of settlers from...

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5. Counting and Recounting: Dislocation, Colonial Demography, and Historical Memory in Northern Gabon

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pp. 130-156

In heavily forested, sparsely populated northern Gabon under French colonial rule, the 1920s constituted a demographic low water mark, characterized by extensive dislocation, famine, and the depopulation of the large Mink

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6. The Discourse of Overpopulation in Western Kenya and the Creation of the Pioneer Corps

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pp. 157-173

When World War II broke out, colonial authorities in Kenya already had developed a plan to mobilize African labor for the military, and beyond that, they also had a military labor unit in place, just waiting to be given the green light to enter the war. That military unit was the Pioneer Corps. Due in large part to a pervasive colonial discourse that tended to regard Kenya, especially western Kenya, as...

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7. Disease and Reproductive Health in Ujiji, Tanganyika: Colonial and Missionary Discourses Regarding Islam and a “Dying Population”

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pp. 174-197

During 1948, a Roman Catholic nun working in a dispensary in Ujiji, Tanganyika, published an international call for alarm in her missionary’s journal over the declining population of the largely Muslim town. Sr. Christophe Marie reported that during the interwar period, the population of Ujiji had declined from 17,000 to 8,000 residents. She claimed the main causes of the population decrease were...

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8. Disease and Environment in Africa: Imputed Dynamics and Unresolved Issues

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pp. 198-216

One of the great ironies of debates about African populations turns on the pivot of disease. Although much current public and scholarly debate centers on the recent rapid expansion of African populations, scholars in a number of fields have begun to argue that African populations remained relatively low until the recent past because of the pressure of a variety of diseases. This essay reviews some of the lit-...

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9. Reproducing Labor: Colonial Government Regulation of African Women’s Reproductive Lives

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pp. 217-244

Women’s reproductive capacity and women’s sexuality have always been objects of policy, whether governmental, religious, societal, or private. The breadth of policies—from macroeconomic to microeconomic, social to political—that affect population growth is striking. Government policies, the subject of this chapter, range widely: wars and military recruitment; emigration and immigration poli-...

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10: African Population: Projections, 1850–1960

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pp. 245-275

This essay focuses on the implications of national era population studies for our understanding of colonial and precolonial populations. In it, I draw upon recent and authoritative estimates of African population totals for the mid-twentieth century in order to estimate African population totals, at regional and continental levels, for each decade from 1950 back to 1850. The principal finding in this study...


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pp. 277-278


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pp. 279-280


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pp. 281-292

E-ISBN-13: 9780821443484
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821419335

Page Count: 292
Publication Year: 2010