chapter  I
27 Pages

INTRODUCTION

THE changes in British West African conditions in the last half century show first and foremost the primary importance of modern means of communication in presentday economic life and civilisation. More than ever before, the world of to-day forms a single unit, and no part of the world can live absolutely to itself. The progress towards a world-wide Division of Labour, whereby the United States grows the cotton which England manufactures and West Africa wears, is signally exhibited in the economic history of British West Africa in the last forty years. In that period, British West Africa has been dragged into the vortex of the modern international economic mechanism, and is now a co-operator in the economic commonwealth of the world. In a state of affairs where both raw materials and finished products, whether necessaries or luxuries, are transported thousands of miles, intercommunication becomes a vital matter. The provision of adequate, cheap and speedy means of transportation in the case of British West Africa meant that a region which had hitherto been practically self-supporting and an individual unit, became linked with the outside world. The story is a very modern one, since

2 it began less than forty years ago and is still proceeding. The transition in the economy of British West Africa can be called nothing less than a Revolution, so great sudden and radical has been the change. l The ultimate causes of the lateness of the Revolution are many and complex, and will duly be set forth later, but the immediate cause was the absence of modern means of communication, as railways only began to be built in West Africa in the late Nineties.