chapter  I
7 Pages


On 31 March 1970 the Overseas Development and Service Act of 1965 was allowed to expire. This brought to an end the Colonial Development and Welfare legislation which since 1940 had been central to the Imperial government’s provision of financial aid for colonial territories. The conclusion of the Colonial Development and Welfare system did not, of course, end British aid to dependent colonies. Their needs were simply included within the government’s more general schemes for aiding developing countries inside and outside the Commonwealth.1 Nevertheless the decision in 1970 to allow specifically colonial development legislation to lapse marks a significant moment. It was symptomatic of the virtual completion of the process of political decolonisation which had by then left behind so few dependent territories. Since they alone were eligible for Colonial Development and Welfare aid, special legislation for them was no longer thought to be necessary. The Colonial Office itself had been merged with the Commonwealth Relations Office in 1966 to form the Commonwealth Office, and even that expanded department was fused into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1968. Moreover, since 1964 the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts had been administered not by the Colonial Office but by the Ministry of Overseas Development until that body too was absorbed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1970. It seemed an appropriate time to review the record of Britain’s colonial development policy. This was done, firstly and briefly, in a white paper issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1971, and then by the publication in 1980 of a five volume official history.2 While both these reports trace the origins of colonial development policy back to the 1920s, their main emphasis is placed on the operations of the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts and the evolution of policy since 1940. It is the purpose of this new study to contribute to a reappraisal of Britain’s colonial record by a closer examination of an earlier phase of British colonial development policy running from before the First World War up to the passage of the first Colonial Development and Welfare Act in 1940. As will be shown, that legislation was preceded by almost half a century of vigorous debate on the merits and methods of colonial development and by a number of Imperial government decisions to finance such activities.