Automotive Empire: Roads, Mobility, and the Making of the Colonial State in Africa, 1900-1945


ACLS Fellowship Program




This book project examines how mobility shaped colonial rule in Africa from 1900 to 1945 by studying road development and motorization projects. The study's trans-imperial approach draws connections among Belgian, British, French, German, and Italian colonies to show how European powers developed a distinct form of "automotive empire" in Africa. States sought to recast Africa by permeating the continent with movement, to the mutual benefit of colonizer and colonized. Automotive empire shaped spatial, social, and political dynamics in the colonies, demonstrating that technology and infrastructure were not simple tools of colonial power; rather, they became sites of shared, yet unequal colonial life and often produced unforeseen outcomes.