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Navigating Colonial Orders

Navigating Colonial Orders: Norwegian Entrepreneurship in Africa and Oceania

Kirsten Alsaker Kjerland
Bjørn Enge Bertelsen
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 414
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  • Book Info
    Navigating Colonial Orders
    Book Description:

    Norwegians in colonial Africa and Oceania had varying aspirations and adapted in different ways to changing social, political and geographical circumstances in foreign, colonial settings. They included Norwegian shipowners, captains, and diplomats; traders and whalers along the African coast and in Antarctica; large-scale plantation owners in Mozambique and Hawai'i; big business men in South Africa; jacks of all trades in the Solomon Islands; timber merchants on Zanzibar' coffee farmers in Kenya; and King Leopold's footmen in Congo. This collection reveals narratives of the colonial era that are often ignored or obscured by the national histories of former colonial powers. It charts the entrepreneurial routes chosen by various Norwegians and the places they ventured, while demonstrating the importance of recognizing the complicity of such "non-colonial colonials" for understanding the complexity of colonial history.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-540-0
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Maps
    (pp. x-xiii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiv-xviii)
    Kirsten Alsaker Kjerland
  6. Introduction Norwegians Navigating Colonial Orders in Africa and Oceania
    (pp. 1-37)
    Bjørn Enge Bertelsen

    Many Norwegians cultivate an image of Norway as exerting a thoroughly benign global influence. Rhetorically, therefore, Norway’s foreign policy is regularly presented as being steeped in humanitarian ideals of mediation and peacemaking rather than caught in the throes of Schmittian realpolitik ([1932] 1996). Reflecting this self-congratulatory position, in 2006 Jonas Gahr Støre, who was then Norwegian minister of foreign affairs, boasted in a public lecture, ‘[w]e have some advantages – as a state outside the power blocks in international politics, with no colonial history and no tradition for hidden agendas’ (quoted in Simonsen 2010: 22; see also Smith-Simonsen 2011). Moreover,...

  7. 1 Interconnecting the British Empire: Swedish and Norwegian Shipping to South Africa, 1850–1914
    (pp. 38-53)
    Knut M. Nygaard

    According to economic historian John Forbes Munro, the southern tip of Africa – the area around the Cape of Good Hope, with Cape Town as the focal point – was the area in sub-Saharan Africa that was most thoroughly integrated into the international economy in the 1800s (Munro 1976: 14). Trade routes passed the Cape of Good Hope, and ships coming from Europe, Asia and Oceania called at Cape Town to refill fresh water, food and – after the 1830s – coal for fuel (Munro 1976: 56; see also Feinstein 2005: 23). This chapter focuses on the experiences Swedish and...

  8. 2 Long-Haul Tramp Trade and Norwegian Sailing Ships in Africa, Australia and the Pacific, 1850–1920: Captain Haave’s Voyages
    (pp. 54-78)
    Gustav Sætra

    A lot has been published on the Norwegian sailing ships involved in the long-haul tramp trade, but little has been written about the agents involved and its organization. In this chapter priority is given to a general introduction to the traits, organization, agents and overall context for the trade, illuminated by accompanying Captain Jørgen Haave – a sea captain from the Norwegian southern coastal town of Grimstad – on three ships during the period 1902–14.

    The tramp trade implied that ships traded on the spot; a charter party was negotiated for each individual voyage. Thus, ships’ captains played a...

  9. 3 Liminal but Omnipotent: Thesen & Co. – Norwegian Migrants in the Cape Colony
    (pp. 79-105)
    Erlend Eidsvik

    This chapter is concerned with how Thesen & Co., a company founded by Norwegian migrants in Knysna in the Cape Colony in 1870, expanded from its modest beginnings to become a powerful and influential force in the economic sphere of the Cape region.¹ Thesen & Co. embarked upon a variety of commercial ventures throughout its century-long existence. In a memorandum from 1905, the objectives for which the company was established are summarized in sixty specific points. These objectives comprise a kaleidoscope of commercial activities envisioning a ubiquitous economic presence, including shipping and passenger services, forestry and lumber milling, mining, whaling, shipbuilding, trading...

  10. 4 Business Communication in Colonial Times: The Norway-East Africa Trading Company in Zanzibar, 1895–1925
    (pp. 106-126)
    Anne K. Bang

    The Norway-East Africa Trading Company (NEAT) in Zanzibar operated from 1895 until the late 1920s, importing timber and wood from Scandinavia to the East African colonies. It was a small enterprise, run for long periods by two men. The structure was well tested and simple: the agent, in the colony, would report to his partner in Norway about the demands arising; ships would then be chartered, loaded and eventually offloaded and their cargo sold. The history of NEAT and its timber-laden ships is one of innumerable subplots to the history of the European colonial expansion in late nineteenth-century Africa.¹


  11. 5 ‘Three Black Labourers Did the Job of Two Whites’: African Labourers in Modern Norwegian Whaling
    (pp. 127-152)
    Dag Ingemar Børresen

    The establishment of whaling stations represented the single largest Norwegian industrial operation outside of Norway in the period 1883–1924. From the inception of the modern whaling industry in the 1860s in the north of Norway, whaling then spread globally, first to the closest catching grounds in the North Atlantic, Newfoundland and Japan and then to the North American Pacific coastline and Alaska. The first modern whaling station in the southern hemisphere was established in Grytviken on the British sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia in 1904. While the station was Argentinian-owned, it was managed and operated by Norwegians. Following South...

  12. 6 The Consular Affairs Issue and Colonialism
    (pp. 153-172)
    Svein Ivar Angell

    In a report in 1907 the Norwegian consul to British South Africa, F. Sandberg, indicated that exports to the British colony had been reduced substantially. In 1903 and 1904 Norwegian building materials had sold well in British South Africa. According to the consul, the construction industry was ‘very considerable indeed’ due to ‘the expectation that gold production and the mining industry will grow rapidly in the near future … and thus positively affect trade’. When these expectations failed, he believed this to be a consequence of ‘the market being flooded with all kinds of building materials, especially wood’.²

    Sandberg meticulously...

  13. 7 Norwegian Shipping and Landfall in the South Sea in the Age of Sail
    (pp. 173-186)
    Edvard Hviding

    From an assessment of popular folklore and family recollections, it is reasonable to assume that quite a few Norwegian seamen chose to settle in the islands of the tropical Pacific during the latter part of the nineteenth century.¹ The cases of Norwegian settlers in the Solomon Islands are particularly complex, but have the good fortune of being at least partly documented (see chapter 8, this volume). However, most documentation of such exotic instances of permanent nineteenth-century migration reaches no further than the private traditions of families in which an uncle or other relative was remembered to have settled in the...

  14. 8 Adventurous Adaptability in the South Sea: Norwegians in ‘the Terrible Solomons’, ca. 1870–1930
    (pp. 187-218)
    Edvard Hviding

    I shall recount stories about the diverse activities and remarkable survival abilities of a handful of Norwegians who settled long ago in a certain Pacific archipelago, well-known to me through anthropological fieldwork over more than twenty-five years.¹ This is the Solomon Islands, a group of large, volcanic, mountainous islands covered in rainforest and fringed by coral reef lagoons and mangrove swamps, located in the tropical southwestern Pacific in the cultural and geographical region referred to as Melanesia or the ‘Black Islands’.

    In 1897, the first resident representative of imperial rule in the British Solomon Islands Protectorate, natural scientist Charles M....

  15. 9 Norwegians in the Cook Islands: The Legacy of Captain Reinert G. Jonassen (1866–1915)
    (pp. 219-239)
    Jon Tikivanotau Michael Jonassen

    Ever since Magellan sailed into the Pacific in 1521 as the first recorded European voyager to that ocean and its islands, a wide variety of explorers, navigators and adventurers from the Western world have plied their trades over the Pacific’s vast expanses. Initially they came primarily from Spain and Portugal. When in 1768 Captain James Cook started his extensive voyages crisscrossing the Pacific, he was to be followed by many others from the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Germany. By the 1890s, many Norwegian ships were also sailing among the islands of the Pacific (see both chapters by...

  16. 10 From Adventure to Industry and Nation Making: The History of a Norwegian Sugar Plantation in Hawai’i
    (pp. 240-266)
    Knut M. Rio

    I will in this chapter describe how the Norwegian presence in Kaua’i, Hawai’i, represents a somewhat different version of colonialism from the one we encounter in Africa in this volume. I will explain how the northern Europeans who arrived in Kaua’i not only came to extract resources, but also to build a new nation, accompanied by Hawaiian elites.

    As indicated by the above quote, there is a popular Hawaiian understanding of Kanuka, or Valdemar Knudsen, as was his Norwegian name, becoming an aristocratic Hawaiian when he first started engaging with the Hawaiian population in Kaua’i. But contrary to popular Western...

  17. 11 Scandinavians in Colonial Trading Companies and Capital-Intensive Networks: The Case of Christian Thams
    (pp. 267-290)
    Elsa Reiersen

    In the early 1900s, financially strong Scandinavian businessmen invested in trading and plantation enterprises in various locations in the global south. This chapter will explore investments in Portuguese East Africa (present-day Mozambique), touching also on business ventures in French West Africa. Crucially, it investigates the character of Scandinavian colonial entrepreneurship through focusing primarily on the Norwegian Christian Thams (1867–1948), who acted as a coordinator between and investor in several important Scandinavian colonial companies. Moreover, Thams directed several companies that had been established with French and Monegasque capital but that later came to be dominated by Scandinavian, and especially Norwegian,...

  18. 12 Colonialism in Norwegian and Portuguese: Madal in Mozambique
    (pp. 291-320)
    Bjørn Enge Bertelsen

    In 1909, owners of large plantations in the provinces of Zambézia and Tete in what was later to become Mozambique made a radical move: in writing they accused the colonial secretary of native affairs (Secretário dos Negócios Indígenas), Franciso Ferrão, of presenting a skewed account of their activities to the general consul for Mozambique, Alfredo Augusto Freire de Andrade. This protest revealed disagreement over how the plantation owners both administered their properties and levied taxes from the African population. The owners commented on the secretary’s account:

    Whoever reads the account of Sr. Secretary of Native Affairs will be left with...

  19. 13 Norwegian Investors and Their Agents in Colonial Kenya
    (pp. 321-338)
    Kirsten Alsaker Kjerland

    Yara Estate, 6 May 1912¹

    Dear Father

    Thank you for your letter dated 31 March together with letters from Mother, Alf and Auntie. The post to Europe unfortunately passed me by. I arrived at the plantation on Sunday 28 April and thought that I would write from here but then I found that the mail service is only three times a week.

    From Nairobi it is 20 kilometres to Yara. I live in a stone house with plastered walls both inside and outside. There are five rooms and a veranda. The kitchen is in a separate building. The roof is...

  20. 14 Scandinavian Agents and Entrepreneurs in the Scramble for Ethnographica During Colonial Expansion in the Congo
    (pp. 339-367)
    Espen Wæhle

    King Leopold II of Belgium’s Congo Free State (1885–1908) earned disrepute due to the brutal mistreatment of the Congolese peoples and plunder of natural resources. The Free State exported ivory, rubber and minerals to the world market, disregarding that the ostensible purpose of the colonial endeavour was to free them from slave traders and bring Christianity, civilization and commerce to the region. The Congo Free State became one of the greatest international scandals of the early twentieth century.¹

    Significantly, the colonial administration of King Leopold II recruited noncolonial colonials from countries seldom mentioned in the imperial rush for Africa:...

  21. Afterword Her og nå (Here and Now): History and the Idea of Globalization
    (pp. 368-373)
    Peter Vale

    Explanation always precedes confession. My purpose in what follows is not to intrude on the excellent introduction offered by Bjørn Enge Bertelsen, who, to remind the reader, situated these wonderful chapters and made sense of their collective direction. This done, let me turn to a confession: I’m no historian, and this makes me wonder what sense I can – indeed, should – make of these chapters. I am, however, interested in ideas and how we use them to make the world and, especially, how the idea of the ‘international’ manifests itself across time. Moreover, where there is explanation and confession,...

  22. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 374-377)
  23. Index
    (pp. 378-395)