Local imperatives and imperial policy: The sources of Lord Carnarvon's South African Confederation policy

Cope, Richard
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
In February 1876 the General Manager of the Standard Bank of South Africa wrote that there was "a general spirit of enterprise abroad, which some ten years ago would hardly have been considered possible in such a country." It is a commonplace that the discovery of diamonds in 1867 set in train an economic transformation in South Africa, but its political effects were no less important. In the 1870s an attempt was made to construct a 'confederation' under the British flag, which it was intended would extend to the Zambezi in the north and to the Portuguese lines on the east and west coasts. To those whose interests lay in the development of a modern capitalist economy in South Africa, Boer republics and Black polities alike were anachronistic and obstructive, and the necessity for incorporating both into a united and efficient British dominion seemed imperative. In an article published in 1974 Anthony Atmore and Shula Marks argued that these "local imperatives" rather than Carnarvon's strategic preoccupations were the crucial forces pushing in the direction of confederation. I have sought to demonstrate elsewhere by an examination of the relevant evidence that Carnarvon's reasons for confederation were not strategic in nature, as Robinson and Gallagher and Goodfellow claimed,but that they were the sort of socio-economic considerations identified by Atmore and Marks. In this article I examine the question of how imperial policy came to correspond so closely to these 'local imperatives'.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented October, 1986
South Africa. History, South Africa. Politics and government