Imperial relations : Britain, the sterling area, and Malaya 1945-1960\ud
The thesis examines the relationship between Britain and Malaya in the post-war period from 1945 to 1960. It provides a development of existing accounts in the literature that either acknowledge the importance of Malaya to Britain but do not provide any details of the relationship, or provide only historical accounts of Malaya’s changing importance over the same period. The thesis argues that there is a clear continuity in this relationship, conditioned by the nature of capitalist social relations, and this relationship should be characterised as imperialist. The thesis adopts an archive-based analysis of the period, using an open Marxist theory of imperialism. This approach argues that the state is an inherent feature, or manifestation, of capitalist social relations and acts to regulate the circuit of capital in order to avoid or resolve the crises that beset it. Imperialism then is understood as this action undertaken internationally, through the domination of one state by another, to improve conditions for capital accumulation nationally, and in the interests of capital generally. Imperialism is then seen very much as an action undertaken by the state, rather than an historical or necessary stage of capitalism. The thesis argues that the over-production crisis that characterised the inter-war period continued after the war, finding expression in the trade disequilibrium between Eastern and Western hemispheres resulting in a global dollar shortage. Malaya remained important to the Sterling Area through its large surplus of dollar earnings, which it contributed to the Area’s dollar pool and were earned through its rubber and tin exports to the United States. The thesis charts the expression of imperial relations through British use of colonial import restrictions, the sequestration of dollar earnings, and the imposition of exchange controls to minimise the dollar deficit, and attempts to develop Malaya’s economy for eventual independence. However, the thesis argues that even independence does not see a significant shift in the fundamental relations between Britain and Malaya, with the Sterling Area still providing a mechanism through which the imperial relationship is enforced. The thesis does not argue that Malaya’s dollar earnings were the only defence against economic collapse but, rather, without Malaya, Britain would have had to impose much more austere measures both domestically and on the Sterling Area in order to survive the post-war crisis, making the task of reconstruction after the war much more difficult.
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