Africa's Freedom Railway

Africa's Freedom Railway

How a Chinese Development Project Changed Lives and Livelihoods in Tanzania
Jamie Monson
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/12/2009
ISBN: 978-0-253-00281-5
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The TAZARA (Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority), or Freedom Railway, from Dar es Salaam on the Tanzanian coast to the Copperbelt region of Zambia, was instrumental in fostering one of the most sweeping development transitions in postcolonial Africa. Built during the height of the Cold War, the railway was intended to redirect the mineral wealth of the interior away from routes through South Africa and Rhodesia. Rebuffed by Western aid agencies, newly independent Tanzania and Zambia accepted help from China to construct what would become one of Africa's most vital transportation corridors. The book follows the railroad from design and construction to its daily use as a vital means for moving villagers and goods. It tells a story of how transnational interests contributed to environmental change, population movements, and the rise of local and regional enterprise.

Author Bio

Jamie Monson is Professor of History at Macalester College. She is editor of Women as Food Producers in Developing Countries.


“This masterful history of the construction and impact of the TAZARA, one of Africa's most vital transportation corridors, tracks the railroad from its conception to its daily use as a passenger train.”

“Blessedly economical and unpretentious . . . no one else is capable of writing about this region with such nuance.”
 — James Giblin, University of Iowa

“An extremely nuanced and textured history of negotiated interests that includes international stakeholders, local actors, and—importantly—early Chinese policies of development assistance.”
 — James McCann, Boston University

“Africa’s Freedom Railway is an insightful and well-informed book that bears testament to the experience of those Tanzanians and Chinese who worked on TAZARA railway as well as those whose lives have benefitted from its presence. By documenting the experience of those people affected by TAZARA, Monson effectively illustrates how the railway benefitted the majority of Tanzanians. Similarly, the book’s wealth of sources enables Monson to write about contemporary Tanzania in a historical context, as TAZARA has shaped the present.Vol. 11.2-3 Spring 2010”
 — Nicholas T. Smith, University of California

“An important contribution to the expanding field of Sino-African Studies. Vol. 200”
 — The China Quarterly

“Africa's Freedom Railway is a valuable addition to the social history of postcolonial Tanzania. . . . This book provides and excellent example to follow.Vol. 50 2009”
 — Emma Hunter, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

“[Africa's Freedom Railway] becomes the definitive multidisciplinary account. . . . [This book] is a model of transport historical geography. . . . [Monson] tells human stories about a massive transport project: its proponents, practitioners and petitioners take centre stage.18.4 July 2010”
 — Journal of Transport Geography

“This insightful account of transnational infrastructure cooperation will no doubt be welcome reading not only for academics and students, but most importantly for African leaders who have to make critical development choices for the benefit of their own people.Vol. 115 Feb. 2010”
 — Peter A. Dumbuya, Fort Valley State University

“The depth of material and analysis makes this essential for development studies and especially Chinese-African relations as the People's Republic expands involvement in the continent.Feb. 2010”
 — Choice

“An interesting account of a remarkable chapter in the chequered history of Tanzania's development.# 94 Sept.-Dec. 2009”
 — John Sankey, Tanzanian Affairs

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Table of Contents


1. Introduction

Part 1. Freedom Railway
2. Railway Visions
3. Building the People's Railway
4. Living along the Railway

Part 2. Ordinary Train
5. The Ordinary Train
6. Landscape Visions
7. Conclusion

Appendix 1. Eight Principles Governing China's Economic and Technical Aid to Other Countries
Appendix 2. Parcel Shipments to and from Selected Rail Stations
Appendix 3. Land Cover Change, Kilombero Valley Study Area