Economic Development, Labour Policy, and Trade Unions in the Sudan, 1898-1958
Date: 20 December 2012
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in History
Like many other African colonies, the Sudan experienced a period of sustained industrial unrest during the late 1940s. The Workers’ Affairs Association (WAA), the representative body for Sudanese railway workers, led a two year campaign of strikes during 1947 and 1948. The escalating labour unrest provoked considerable unease among ...
Like many other African colonies, the Sudan experienced a period of sustained industrial unrest during the late 1940s. The Workers’ Affairs Association (WAA), the representative body for Sudanese railway workers, led a two year campaign of strikes during 1947 and 1948. The escalating labour unrest provoked considerable unease among British officials in the Sudan Government. Not only was there a fear that the strikes might escalate into broader anti-colonial protest but the sustained campaign of industrial unrest also caused significant disruption to the economy. During the strikes the export of cotton - the Sudan Government’s principal source of revenue - was delayed and the movement of other essential goods was severely restricted. The thesis argues that the economic dislocation caused by the strikes, which coincided with growing concerns about rising anti-colonial nationalism and imperial decline, meant that labour discipline among key sector workers was the primary objective for the late colonial state. Although the protests in the Sudan were part of the broader strike wave that was sweeping through the African continent in the late 1940s, it has largely been excluded from the historiography of this period – primarily because of the Sudan’s unique status as a ‘Condominium’ of Britain and Egypt. Through an analysis of the Sudan Government’s labour policy, the thesis challenges this notion of exceptionality, demonstrating that the British officials of the Sudan Political Service (SPS) were animated by similar concerns and motivations to their counterparts elsewhere in colonial Africa. With this in mind, the thesis aims to address two broad research objectives. Firstly, to examine the causes of the industrial unrest: investigating the relationship between the structure of the economy, social organisation, and post-war economic conditions. Secondly, to analyse the Sudan Government’s response to the labour protests, documenting how immediate economic concerns, combined with post-war ideas relating to industrial relations management and social welfare, shaped colonial labour policy.
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