35 Pages

“Cotton is the Mother of Poverty”: Peasant Resistance to Forced Cotton Production in Mozambique, 1938–1961

During the past decade historians have increasingly come to recognize the dominant role that capitalism has played in shaping the twentieth-century history of Africa. One of the central features of Mozambique's political economy was the large number of men from the rural areas who worked as migrant laborers in South Africa and Rhodesia. As in other parts of Africa, the Portuguese colonial regime sought to extract from its colonized people cash crops or other exchange value commodities which could be sold on the world market. The expansion of cotton production in the colonies figured prominently in the Salazar regime's economic plan. The Portuguese regime passed legislation establishing cotton zones and granting concessions to local commercial interests each of which received the exclusive right to purchase at fixed prices the cotton that peasants within the region were compelled to grow.