chapter  4
Town planning in British colonial West Africa
Pages 27

There is a tendency on the part of analysts to exaggerate the differences between British and French colonial policies in Africa. Conversely, little attention is paid to the similarities characterizing these two colonial powers. Yet, it is clear that both colonialists were identical in many respects. For instance, both strived to consolidate power in the colonial territories. However, it is important to note that while the British employed mostly economic or commercial strategies, the French depended largely on military means. This explains the intense involvement of military engineers in town planning projects in the territories under French colonial control. Military engineers played hardly any role in town planning projects in the British colonies. As Robert Home (1990: 23) has observed, those who were typically in charge of executing such projects included surveyors or engineers, who were members of the colonial civil service (e.g. McLean in Egypt), professional architects and town planners, who were hired as consultants to execute specifi c town planning and related tasks (e.g. Lancaster in India), and roving propagandists, who were occasionally assigned to canvass for the planning ideology (e.g. Geddes in India and Jerusalem). This chapter shows how the British colonial authorities employed non-military men with skills and talents in spatial and physical planning to consolidate power and effectuate socio-political control in British West Africa.