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Harry Johnston's New Boot: The Uganda Agreement and Ideas of Development


  • I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for very helpful suggestions. I would also like to acknowledge the funding assistance granted so kindly from Drake University's Center for the Humanities.


As an early development practitioner, Harry Johnston came to Uganda intending to develop a socially responsible capitalism – his ‘new boot’ for the Baganda. He negotiated this intent into the 1900 Uganda Agreement and expected that, once implemented, these conditions would lead naturally to the desired ends. What happened was something quite different. Baganda chiefs negotiated their own goals into the Agreement, and their actions, along with those of Baganda farmers and workers, produced very different results than that which Johnston envisioned. In effect, his intent to develop was subsumed by the contingent process of development. While interesting in itself, this story informs recent development debates. Some post-development theorists, while attempting to provide a practical alternative to modernist development, appear to incorporate assumptions similar to those under which Johnston operated. However, if these laudable attempts are to succeed, they must learn from Johnston's experience and account for development's contingent nature.