Bridging the Zambesi


by Landeg White
Macmillan Press 1993
Now out of print.
This book is now available to purchase in PDF format.

Price: €59.99 (£40.00)

In January 1935, a railway bridge 2.3 miles long was opened across the Zambezi delta in Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique). Fifty-one years later, it was blown up by anti-government forces fighting with Renamo. This book brings together politics, diplomacy, economics, labour history and technology to show how the constructions of the ‘longest bridge in the world’ was both a major engineering feat and a disaster of colonial planning.

It is based on Portuguese and British archives including materials newly available and it tells the story of Libert Oury, financier and railway king, whose associates nicknamed him ‘the other Rhodes’ but whose career has never before been described. But the book’s real hero is the Zambezi River, that ‘treacherous highway’ which the bridge was intended to conquer.
Today the lower Zambezi bridge is by far the grandest of the ruins of colonial enterprise littering the vast river valley.


“It is a pleasure to read Landeg White’s tolerant and wise account of the colonial follies epitomised by a great Zambesi railway project … I cannot think anyone has so well described the tranquil but ever-menacing Zambesi with its evergreen flood plain, its squadrons of pelicans, its pink explosions crystalising into flocks of flamingoes, and best of all its hippos yawning like pianos. Beyond these felicities, there is White’s empathy with the peoples who have somehow survived the blessings of colonialism.”

London Review of Books