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The War of Legs

Transport and Infrastructure in the East African Campaign of World War I

Michael Pesek

This article describes the little-known history of military labor and transport during the East African campaign of World War I. Based on sources from German, Belgian, and British archives and publications, it considers the issue of military transport and supply in the thick of war. Traditional histories of World War I tend to be those of battles, but what follows is a history of roads and footpaths. More than a million Africans served as porters for the troops. Many paid with their lives. The organization of military labor was a huge task for the colonial and military bureaucracies for which they were hardly prepared. However, the need to organize military transport eventually initiated a process of modernization of the colonial state in the Belgian Congo and British East Africa. This process was not without backlash or failure. The Germans lost their well-developed military transport infrastructure during the Allied offensive of 1916. The British and Belgians went to war with the question of transport unresolved. They were unable to recruit enough Africans for military labor, a situation made worse by failures in the supplies by porters of food and medical care. One of the main factors that contributed to the success of German forces was the Allies' failure in the “war of legs.”

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Laborers, Migrants, Refugees

Managing Belonging, Bodies, and Mobility in (Post)Colonial Kenya and Tanzania

Hanno Brankamp and Patricia Daley

, aimed at instituting tightly controlled migrant labor regimes and managing African presence in spaces deemed “non-native,” continue to reverberate with postcolonial policies and political discourses. Colonial labor controls drew on the racialized myth of

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Owen White and Elizabeth Heath

-representation of certain populations in the supply of colonial labor, such as the Soninke of West Africa. 42 Studies of migrating workers, to which one might also add trade diasporas like that of the Lebanese (or Libano-Syriens , in colonial-era parlance), 43

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Archaeology and Ethnographic Collections

Disentangling Provenance, Provenience, and Context in Vanuatu Assemblages

James L. Flexner

( Haddon 1912: 44–45 ). The shipwrecked Tannese man had been nearly 3,000 kilometers from home. In a similar way, it is perhaps also significant that several of the clubs noted above derived from Queensland collections relating to the colonial labor trade

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Among Cannibals and Headhunters

Jack London in Melanesia

Keith Newlin

colonial labor practices. Labor recruiting before the turn of century focused on recruiting laborers for Fiji and Queensland sugar fields, leading to population declines and employment of coastal dwellers as middlemen, who facilitated the acquisition of

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The Meanings of the Move?

From “Predicaments of Mobility” to “Potentialities in Displacement”

Stephen C. Lubkemann

only served as a pillar of household social reproduction but had historically also been the primary and frequently deployed strategy for responding to periodic intensifications in colonial labor recruitment and heavy-handed taxation drives (which the

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Klaus Berghahn, Russell Dalton, Jason Verber, Robert Tobin, Beverly Crawford, and Jeffrey Luppes

Germany’s “other” colonies outside of Africa and Asia. Steen examines colonial labor policy and argues that differences in the use and recruitment of Chinese coolies in Samoa and New Guinea were the product of Samoan efforts to protect their culture and