The United Kingdom and the Political Economy of the Global Oil-Producing Nuts and Seeds during the 1930s

Working Paper Number: 5

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This paper considers this subject within the broad contexts of the global depression of the 1930s, the complexities of the global vegetable oils and fats business, and the interplay of colonial, imperial and global political and economic dynamics. It examines the intersection of local and global forces in the United Kingdom, the United States, Norway, India, the Dutch East Indies and West Africa in the shaping of the global movements and transactions in the oilseeds and nuts business.

It stresses the symbiosis of local pressures in the producing and consuming nations, the official measures taken by the affected countries in an era of worldwide protectionism, and the United Kingdom’s dilemma in the face of the clash between its national interest and interwoven imperial/colonial commitments in Africa and Asia.

The paper examines from an essentially West African (Nigerian) perspective the interplay of the global transactions in Norwegian whale oil, British West African and Indian Coromandel groundnuts, the West African palm produce and Dutch East Indies (Sumatran) oil palm exports.

The discussion necessarily involves an examination of tariff, foreign trade and agricultural policies in the United States and the United Kingdom. The paper highlights the conflict of interest between two British territories (Nigeria and India), and between British national economic interest (in the whale oil industry) and her imperial interests in the colonial oil-producing and oilseeds industries of the Global South.

The discussion is based upon contemporary newspaper and archival material previously collected by the author in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, and on secondary literature. It is grounded in a three-dimensional relational framework linking the /colony/ with the /global /markets through the /imperial/metropolitan/ economic clearinghouse.