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Rain and the colonial streetscape: reading for water in Freetown’s newspaper archive

Gough, Milo (2024) Rain and the colonial streetscape: reading for water in Freetown’s newspaper archive. Urban HIstory. ISSN 0963-9268

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S096392682400004X


Situated on the tip of a mountainous peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa, the city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, receives an extraordinarily high rainfall, heavily concentrated in the few months of the rainy season. Working from this extreme wetness and inspired by recent work in the oceanic humanities, this article reads Freetown’s colonial era newspaper archive for water. It argues that the heavy rain of the West African Monsoon was an important agent in shaping the decaying streetscape of the city, and a broader imaginary of decline, at the turn of the twentieth century. Using vivid descriptions of wetness, nature and disease, African editors, correspondents and letter-writers evoked a sodden modernity to push the colonial government to maintain and improve the city’s street infrastructure and at once to forge an elite urban public in opposition to migrants from the urban hinterland.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2024 The Author
Divisions: International History
Subjects: D History General and Old World
D History General and Old World > DT Africa
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2024 14:27
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2024 12:30

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