• Divergence and Convergence on the Copperbelt: White mineworkers in comparative perspective, 1911-63

    Duncan Money (see profile)
    African History
    Race, Imperialism, History
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    DR Congo, Zambia, Copperbelt, whiteness, Colonialism, Colonial history
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    Industrial mining on the Central African Copperbelt attracted substantial, if transient, white populations from the outset, though these communities have been treated separately. Many thousands of white traders, prospectors, mineworkers, engineers, general itinerants and would-be settlers were attracted by the copper boom and often spent time living and working on both sides of the border. This chapter offers a comparative perspective on the historical experience of the communities that these whites formed. It argues that, despite considerable initial commonalities, their histories quickly diverged and it examines this history until the most significant point of divergence occurred in the early 1960s: the Katangese session. The arbitrary political border dividing the region became salient, due largely to the actions of the colonial state and mining companies. Both white communities were around the same size, but the composition became quite different. Katanga’s white population was relatively nationally and ethnically diverse whereas almost all whites on the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt came from within the British Empire. There was also greater occupational diversity in Katanga’s white population as the decision by Union Minère to replace white workers with African workers greatly diminished the numbers of the former. Despite these differences, examining these white communities within a single frame of analysis is justified because of the connections between them - including cultural and sporting links – which provided close knowledge of each other so that, at different times, each white community was imagined as providing a possible future for the other. White mineworkers in Katanga unsuccessfully sought to emulate the conditions across the border during the 1940s, while white mineworkers in Northern Rhodesia saw what had happened to their counterparts in Katanga as a possible future to be avoided.
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    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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