1. bookVolume 16 (2022): Issue 1 (June 2022)
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
eISSN
1646-7752
First Published
16 Jun 2016
Publication timeframe
2 times per year
Languages
English
access type Open Access

Colonial Railways of Mozambique: Critical and Vulnerable Infrastructure, 1880s-1930s

Published Online: 24 Jun 2022
Volume & Issue: Volume 16 (2022) - Issue 1 (June 2022)
Page range: 7 - 28
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
eISSN
1646-7752
First Published
16 Jun 2016
Publication timeframe
2 times per year
Languages
English
Abstract

In the early 1880s, Portugal began the construction of railways in its colonies. The main goals were to reinforce Portuguese presence and increase colonial revenue. This paper aims to analyse the transnational railways built in Mozambique, between the 1880s and the 1930s, as critical infrastructure (or critical systems). I argue that the lack of railways in Mozambique was the cause for deep concern and fostered a “sense of urgency” among the Portuguese authorities, as this could potentially jeopardise the Portuguese imperial project. Railways were considered critical to bolstering Portugal’s sovereignty, as well as to exploit local resources and attract traffic from neighbouring territories. Once built, the railways revealed two major vulnerabilities: competition from South African ports and dependence on British capital. A few episodes involving Portuguese and British agents highlighted these vulnerabilities and motivated Portuguese policymakers to find solutions. This paper explores these topics based on a comprehensive literature review and the use of primary sources, intended to provide a novel approach to Portuguese colonial railways.

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