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The Angolan Coffee Frontier, 1820-1920

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Gareth Austin.

The presentation will be only 20 minutes, so discussion will be based largely on people having read the paper in advance. If you are coming to the seminar, please contact Gareth Austin (gma31@cam.ac.uk) for the paper.

This paper examines the exploitation of Angola’s natural coffee reserves by African and foreign planters from the nineteenth through the early twentieth century, before a new generation of European settlers began to colonize the Angolan montane forest in the interwar period. It specifically studies the way farmers in northern Angola developed the forest environment for commercial agriculture and, by doing so, radically transformed the local coffee landscape. It pays attention to conditions this environment imposed on coffee planting in Angola, and to the cultivation methods of small African farmers, who from the 1850s became the main drivers of the Angolan ‘coffee frontier’. It concludes that smallholding was generally more competitive than estate farming in this early period, showing that the colonial government’s endorsement of settler expansion after World War 1 was a political choice rooted in nationalist and racialist discourse instead of economic evidence.

This talk is part of the African Economic History Seminar series.

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