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Pillars and perspective : demarcation of the Belgian Congo-Northern Rhodesia boundary.

Donaldson, J. W. (2008) 'Pillars and perspective : demarcation of the Belgian Congo-Northern Rhodesia boundary.', Journal of historical geography., 34 (3). pp. 471-493.


From 1911 to 1914 an Anglo-Belgian boundary commission demarcated the 885 km boundary between the Belgian Congo and Northern Rhodesia along the watershed of the Congo and Zambezi rivers with a total of just 46 markers. Such low-density boundary demarcation with widely spaced pillars was typical of early British boundary-making in southern Africa. Less than fifteen years later, a second Anglo-Belgian boundary commission was created to re-demarcate the boundary. Not only was it unique for a colonial boundary in southern Africa to be re-demarcated, this second Anglo-Belgian boundary commission worked for six years with a budget that exceeded any previous British boundary commission in colonial Africa. This commission marked the Belgian Congo-Northern Rhodesia boundary on the ground with nearly five times the number of pillars as the first commission, literally etching the boundary in the African landscape. Its techniques of survey and boundary demarcation set a new standard, serving as a model for later British colonial boundary commissions and influencing boundary-making theory through the present day. What caused such a distinct change in British attitude towards marking this specific boundary? How did the earlier methods for boundary survey and marking both reflect and contribute to the way African territory was conceived in the British imperial perspective? Likewise, how did the change in demarcation methods indicate a change in this perspective? This article will investigate these questions by comparing the tactics and responsibilities of the two Anglo-Belgian boundary commissions, juxtaposing them with some of their regional contemporaries. It will step outside the existing critiques of African boundaries by examining the under-researched processes by which the inter-colonial boundaries were physically marked on the ground and the contribution of British boundary commissions in Africa to imperial/geographical discourse.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:African boundaries, Demarcation, Boundary commissions, British colonial boundaries.
Full text:Full text not available from this repository.
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Record Created:29 Jul 2008
Last Modified:08 Apr 2009 16:38

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