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History, British Rule

Lord Malvern, strongest state, smelting plants, Federation of Rhodesia, Kenneth Kaunda

At the time of British penetration in the area, the strongest state in Zambia was that of the Lozi under Chief Lewanika, who openly solicited British protection. A treaty establishing British protection was signed between the Lozi overlord and a representative of the British South Africa Company in 1889. Eastern Zambia was added to Britain’s empire by Sir Harry Johnston during his conquest of Nyasaland (now Malawi). A regular British resident, titled “agent in charge,” was sent to Lewanika in 1897. Three years later the British government directly assumed jurisdiction over the entire area.

British government in Zambia (then called Northern Rhodesia) was the same as in its other African territories, consisting of a small central executive authority made up of appointed Europeans headed by a governor; the system of indirect rule allowed great freedom to local rulers. In the late 1920s a major development occurred: the discovery of copper in the north. This led to the extension of the railway and the building of the first smelting plants in the so-called copper belt. By the beginning of World War II in 1939, Zambia had become a major producer of copper, and the extreme urbanization of the northwest was under way. The copper industry brought an influx of European technicians and administrators to Zambia, and although they never gained the political power of European settlers in Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), they became a dominant force in Zambian life.

In 1953, under pressure from the white minority in Southern Rhodesia, the British government forced the creation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, comprising the territories of Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland (now Malawi). It was dominated by the white population of the territories, and the central government headed by Lord Malvern and Sir Roy Welensky was a reflection of Southern Rhodesian politics. The federation was condemned from its inception by every African politician in the state. The path toward independence was more difficult for Zambia than for most other British African territories because the federation had to be broken first. This was accomplished by Malawi in conjunction with pressure applied by Zambian nationalists, led by Kenneth Kaunda.

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