chapter  1
3 Pages


The operations of the Colonial Development Act in the 1930s require analysis for several reasons. For one thing, after 1929 most colonial government requests for imperial assistance towards their local development costs were directed towards the Colonial Development Fund. It is true that until its closure in 1933, the Empire Marketing Board continued to play a part in financing research into problems of colonial production and provided some help for the advertising and marketing of colonial products in Britain. Grants-in-aid were also distributed, but mainly to balance the budgets of colonial administrations, to ease the hardships caused by natural disasters or to solve such particular problems as the burden imposed on Nyasaland by the financing of the Trans-Zambesia Railway.1

But, by contrast, the establishment of the CDF on a permanent footing with an annual grant and unusually wide terms of reference made the measure of central significance in the 1930s. Moreover, in introducing the bill in the House of Commons ministers had spoken in a mood of jaunty optimism about its stimulating effect: Thomas envisaged a consequent annual expenditure on colonial development projects of up to £40 million a year, and Mosley claimed that ‘If that fund is used to the full extent, very great orders on a very great scale can be given to this country’.2 It is pertinent to ask whether these hopes were fulfilled. Furthermore, since colonial development policy in the 1930s was largely synonymous with the operations of the Colonial Development Act, it is obviously important to see whether in practice it adhered to the intentions of its originators. As the previous chapter indicated, the explicit purpose of the measure was to encourage colonial development in order to stimulate British industry and commerce and thus ease the burden of unemployment at home, either immediately or in the long-term. Metropolitan advantages took priority. It is not inconceivable that in the peculiar circumstances which prevailed in Britain and in the colonies in the 1930s, interpretations of the act were modified and its functions and objectives were altered. Whether such modifications took place