The area around the Zambesi
became known to Britain through the exploits of David Livingstone when he became the first
European to see the Zambesi falls, which he
christened Victoria falls. His journeys in
the 1850s were avidly followed as he embodied the qualities that Victorians
prized: a Devout Christian, An anti-slavery campaigner, inquisitive and wanting
to discover what was on God's earth. He was the Christianity of the 3 C's of
British Imperialism. It should be said that his successor Cecil Rhodes in the
1890s would bring the other 2 C's of Commerce and Civilisation.
The history of Northern
Rhodesia was very much tied to the
events in Southern Rhodesia. Cecil Rhodes had formed the British South Africa Company to prospect
in the lands to the north of Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The idea had been to see if the gold seam ran further north. Rhodes' representatives had
signed mining concessions from Chief Lobengula of the
Matabele. The Matabele were
the dominant tribe between the River Limpopo and Zambesi. However that authority did not run far over the
river Zambesi. However, as it suited their purposes
the BSAC was prepared to leave the northern limit of the concession deliberately
vague. This became more imperative for the company as it became obvious that
there was no gold in the lands of the Matabele.
Company prospectors moved further and further north
searching for the elusive gold that they had expected to find. However, those
prospectors who failed to discover gold in Southern
Rhodesia had been impressed by the
quality of the farm land on the plateau there. Of course, their mineral rights
did not give them permission to take the land for themselves. They therefore
contrived a war against the Matabele supposedly in
defence of the Mashona. The use of machine guns and
artillery helped subdue and destroy Lobengula's
mighty empire. This opened up the south to white settlement and many settlers
took advantage of the new high quality land.
The BSAC still endeavoured to discover gold north of
the Zambesi. They obtained mineral rights from the Lozi in the north west.
The Ngoni in the north east resisted signing over
their rights until defeated in battle by the BSAC. Again, technically the BSAC
was just after the mineral rights, but in reality their technological and
administrative skills gave them more than they were due. Having said that, the
land and climate was not as suitable for western agricultural as that in Southern Rhodesia. This meant that
the quantity of white settlers was significantly less than in the area south of
the Zambesi and although some made the journey to the
north, they were always a tiny minority of the total population.
In 1911, the BSAC was able to provide enough of an
infrastructure to combine the north eastern and north western areas into a
single administrative unit. Despite this, the much hoped for gold deposits
never materialised and the BSAC began to run up considerable debts and was
unable to pay much in the way of returns to its shareholders. By the 1920s the
finances were precarious. The white settlers in Southern Rhodesia demonstrated their
desire for their own self-government through elections to the Legislative
In 1923 the charter for BSAC rule was revoked
throughout the entire area of Northern and Southern
Rhodesia in return for a cash
payout. With a higher density of white settlers, Southern Rhodesia was awarded a
significant degree of self government. Northern
Rhodesia became a colonial office
protectorate with its capital at Livingstone. It had a Legislative Council, but
this had no representation from the black tribes.
The economic prospects for this colony were soon to
change as copper was discovered in the north of the colony in 1928. These were
huge deposits and would diversify the agrarian society to a considerable
degree. Northern Rhodesia would become one of the largest producers of the copper in the world
and the significance of this product would be further enhanced by the advent of
the Second World War. The conditions for the African workers were harsh, the precedent for poor working conditions had been
set in the gold and diamond mines further south where the companies had been
paranoid about workers stealing what they found. The use of compounds, poor
health and safety conditions and very low wages led to several strikes. The
authorities had no compunction in using force to put these down. In 1935, 13
miners were killed. The large population of Africans meant that unruly workers
could always be replaced or be undercut by others desperate for work.
The 1950s would see a re-evaluation of the role of
empire and colonies. Some of the richer, more powerful colonies were granted
their independence. Nigeria and Ghana were the first significant African colonies to gain their independence.
The British government was aware that by making the richer colonies that were
better able to support themselves independent they might be left with
uneconomic colonies that it might never be able to get to a self-sufficient
situation. It therefore experimented with the creation of federations of
colonies. It tried it in East Africa and also here in Central Africa. Northern and Southern Rhodesia were to be combined with Nyasaland.
This was an unhappy union from the very start. The
black Africans in Northern Rhodesia were requesting the same rights as the whites had in Southern Rhodesia. The white Southern
Rhodesian government resented using their wealth to pay for an infrastructure
for the other two nations. Nyasaland was too poor to contribute much at all. Finally, the black Africans
were suspicious that the federation was a way of preserving white and colonial
domination over them. In a period of rising nationalism the federation had
fallen apart by 1963.
The withdrawal of South Africa
from the Commonwealth in 1961 and its imposition of harsh racist laws was an
acute embarrassment to the British Government. They made reassurances to the
other black African leaders that they would never allow this to happen again.
Representation of blacks became a priority and the Legislative Council's were
adjusted to reflect this fact. A two stage election held in October and
December 1962 resulted in an African majority for the first time.
It was this council that requested more democratic
representation and self-government. The British government was having problems
clawing back some of the rights it had given to the Southern Rhodesia white government.
Denying self government to a black legislative council would smack of racism
and worry other African colonies with similar demands for independence. Britain
would prefer to hand over independence in a peaceful manner. There were plenty
of communists and nationalists who were running out of patience and would seize
it if it were delayed too long. The British therefore granted independence to
the new state of Zambia on 24
(until 1935) / Lusaka (from 1935)
pound (20 shillings, 1 shilling = 12 pence)
For more stamps see:
Northern Rhodesia in Wikipedia.
of Northern Rhodesia in Flags of the World.
printer: Waterlow & Sons, London (1 and 4), Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co., New Malden
(2 and 3)
(1 and 4), 11:11˝ (2 and 3)
1 8 CENTS Hermes, globe, letter, airplane, boat,
train, text "UNIVERSAL / POSTAL UNION / 1874 1949"
(cat. Michel 50/SG 50/Yvert 42)
2 15 c hemispheres, airplane, steamer,
text "1874 / UNIVERSAL POSTAL UNION / 1949"
(cat. Michel 51/SG 51/Yvert 43)
3 25 c Hermes scattering letters over
globe, text "UNIVERSAL POSTAL UNION / 1874 / 1949"
(cat. Michel 52/SG 52/Yvert 44)
4 50 c UPU monument, Berne, text "UNIVERSAL / POSTAL / UNION / 1874 /
1949" and "UNION
(cat. Michel 53/SG 53/Yvert 45)
last revised: 7 October 2008