“Equal rights for all civilized men”: Elite africans and the quest for “european” liquor in colonial Zimbabwe, 1924-1961

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Between 1924 and 1961 elite Africans in Southern Rhodesia (colonial Zimbabwe) waged a protracted political struggle for the right legally to drink “European” liquor, which had been banned to colonized Africans under the Brussels Treaty of 1890. Refusing to be lumped with the black masses and basing their claim on the notion that there should be “equal rights for all civilized men” elite Africans argued that they had attained a cultural level comparable to that of the dominant European settlers and should therefore be exempt from the liquor ban. This struggle, which ended successfully in 1961, also highlights other important themes in the history of the emergent African elite in Southern Rhodesia, most notably its political tactics and consciousness. The quest for European liquor helped to hone political skills as well, as a number of individuals who participated in it later became important African nationalist leaders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-397
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Review of Social History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1992


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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