Society, labour, technology and consumption: the establishment of colonial rule in Northern Rhodesia, 1890-1924.

Locomotive. © Jan-Bart Gewald (ASC Leiden)Formal colonial rule was established in Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia) following an Order in Council in 1894 that awarded the territory to the British South Africa Company (BSAC) under royal charter. However formal signatures on treaties and documents signed 7000 km away do not make for colonial rule on the ground.

The way colonial rule was established in Zambia is the subject of this research project. It has been argued that colonial rule was imposed by brute force but this project argues that it was the complex relationship between labour, technology and consumption that lies at the centre of the establishment of colonial rule in Zambia. The insatiable hunger for labour (on the part of railway companies and mining companies), coupled with an unquenchable thirst for financial reward and the ability to buy industrial consumer products (on the part of young African men), allowed for and enabled the establishment of colonial rule in Zambia between 1890 and 1924.

Research project
2006 to 2017

Senior researchers

External affiliates

Iva Pesa
Mary Davies


technology; colonial rule; consumption

Funding and cooperation


NWO Vidi 2006 - 2011