This paper investigates the various academic studies of the household budgets of Africans living in what became the countries of Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi, and the Congolese province of Katanga. These studies were made during the colonial period, by members of the Rhodes- Livingstone Institute, the Central Statistical Office of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, in what was then Salisbury, and by Belgian researchers in the Congo. It demonstrates how what at first sight appears to be a neutral form of investigation was in fact highly politicised. On the one hand, there were many who showed how African incomes were insufficient to meet their needs. These studies were basically highly anti-colonial. On the other hand, the Central Statistical Office and the Belgians were much more concerned to show how Africans were prospering under colonial tutelage. All of them, however, contributed to making colonial society much more ‘legible’ for its rulers
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