Schnurr. (2013). Cotton as calamitous commodity: The politics of agricultural failure in Natal and Zululand, 1844-1938. Canadian Journal of African Studies, 47(1), 115-132.


This article follows the efforts of white settlers to impose cotton as an export crop in Natal and Zululand. Touted as a commodity capable of remaking land and life in the region in the 1850s, the 1860s, and again in the 1910s and 1920s, cotton never achieved more than marginal status in the region’s agricultural economy. Its story is one of historical amnesia: although faith in the region’s cotton prospects dipped following each spectacular failure, it was routinely resurrected once previous failures had been accounted for, or memories of them had faded.