(AFRICA and IMPERIALISM – continued)

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Britain elsewhere in Africa

British migrants were joining Germans in Germany's former colonies – colonies now being ruled by Britain through a League of Nation mandate. The British rule in these areas faced challenges, but they were able to manage without much of a drain on their resources. The British suppressed a revolt in Nyasaland, a protectorate between Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia. And in 1923 the Khoikhoi (Hottentot) and Herero peoples in the former German colonies of Southwest Africa rebelled. The Khoikhoi and Herero were a proud, cattle-owning people. They disliked prohibition against owning branding irons, being taxed on their dogs and being rounded up for work. The British blamed the rebellion on a too sudden move to leniency away from German discipline, and they crushed the rebellion with machine guns and airplanes.

The British continued to proclaim their rule in Africa as "a sacred trust" for advancing civilization. Their stated aim was to help their subjects to modernize and develop economically, a duty they said they would continue to perform until the Africans under their rule were able "to stand on their own." In partnership with Christian missionaries of various denominations the British envisioned an expansion of health and education services, while about a third of the African children under its rule were attending four years of schooling.

In Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia and Sierra Leone, Britain's colonial rule included efforts in education. Clerical skills were taught, and people with these skills found employment in local government, in the churches, in commerce and in industry. The two hundred or so graduating every year from secondary schools were doing their work with skill and responsibility. And there were those who went to Europe for training as doctors, veterinary surgeons, agricultural and forest officers and in other fields. They returned to work in their professions or in positions such as managers in retail stores, as schoolmasters, or as officials in tribal government. A new category of African was being created, called by Europeans the "trousered niggers."

Just after the war, some educated blacks in British-ruled western Africa organized a movement for national self-determination. Men from Nigeria, Ghana, and Gambia met to establish the West African Congress. They resolved that a university should be established that reflected African nationalism and that all judicial appointments and positions in medicine should be open to qualified blacks. They called on Britain to refrain from partitioning Africa without regard for the wishes of the people involved. And they called for constitutions that included some provisions for black representation. In September 1920, the West African Congress sent a delegation to London, and Britain's Secretary of State, Lord Milner, rejected their demands. Milner was backed by claims from Britain's governors in western Africa that the delegation did not represent the people in their jurisdictions. Milner had the support of a powerful chieftain named Nana Ofori Atta, who claimed that the West African Congress despised and ignored the traditional authority of West Africa's chiefs.

While blacks in Nigeria who were more sympathetic to British rule were being given honors and positions of responsibility in local government, some others protested against British rule. In Nigeria's port city of Lagos were educated blacks who were offended by the attitudes of British officials, by missionaries and by white traders. They wished to introduce political reforms based on British democratic traditions, but they had little success spreading their views. A more vociferous protest arose among the Egba people of Abeokuta, forty miles north of Lagos. They rioted against unfamiliar rules recently imposed by the British. And a rebellion arose in 1929 among market women at Aba, fifty miles from the coast in eastern Nigeria.


Copyright © 1998-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.