Call: Finance and Imperialism in Africa. Old theories, new evidence. 1860-1960.

AHA New York

For the proposed session at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in New York City, 3-6 January 2020, potential panelists and a discussant are looked for.
The proposed session title is Finance and Imperialism in Africa. Old theories, new evidence. 1860-1960.


The relationship between finance and imperialism has long been debated by scholars and activists alike, and the ideological battles that shaped the study of political economy throughout the 20th century have produced voluminous works on the subject. Although there is no fully fledged theory that explains a link between finance and territorial imperialism, interest in the issue has challenged a host of historiographical assumptions and hypotheses. Africa has played a central role in these debates.

It certainly took a considerable time before European imperialist powers made efforts to invest large amounts of capital in Africa as a whole. The investments that were made have on the other hand been claimed to have been fundamental drivers behind the process of imperialism on the continent. It was the Egyptian financial crisis of the 1880s that led to the first formulation of British radical imperialism. It would be southern Africa where the theories were originally applied. From Hobson to Hobsbawm, the South African War have been significant in outlining the economic roots of British empire-building and the historical development of capitalism. No consensus was however reached on how the relationship between finance and imperialism looked like, but the debate did to a large extent peter out in the 1980s. In recent years, the issue has received renewed interest among scholars. Much new empirical evidence has thereby been brought forth, which can cast new light on old theories. 

The aim of this session is to explore new empirical and theoretical perspectives on the nexus between finance and imperialism in Africa. All papers relating to the various aspects of finance and imperialism in Africa for the period c.1860-1960 are invited. Papers that apply new methods and approaches from the digital humanities are especially invited.

The deadline for submissions is 15 February. Please contact or Klas Rönnbäck ( if you would be interested in joining. They intend to publish the papers in an edited volume.