“When should we expect a reasonable return on our investment Mr Rhodes?" The British South Africa Company shareholders and the profit motive, 1890 to 1923
Keywords:Chartered company, British South Africa Company, Profit, Administration, Shareholders, Empire
The British South Africa Company (BSAC), like any other chartered company in the colonial period, has been chiefly viewed in the context of empire building. This is mainly because most colonial powers in the late nineteenth century turned to chartered companies to provide cheap administration and development in the colonies. This article argues that contrary to the generally accepted view of the BSAC as an instrument of imperial expansion, the company was driven by the profit-making motive. It contends that the BSAC was financially backed by a group of men whose desires to obtain a profit from their business venture were more paramount than any imperial designs attributed to the company. It posits that colonial administration and everything associated with it was frowned upon and seen as an albatross to their profit-making desires. The study, therefore, attempts to illuminate the BSAC’s proprietors and financiers’ profit-making aim and how their desire for such is revealed in the interfaces between the shareholders and the directors of the company. Through the interactions of shareholders, the Colonial Office and company directors, this article attempts to reveal and analyse the expressions of such desires. The paper seeks to do this by unpacking the conversations between shareholders and company directors and demonstrating how such interactions assist in revealing the operational parameters of the BSAC as a Chartered company.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Kudakwashe Chitofiri
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