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Federation to New Nationhood: The Development of Nationalism in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, 1950-64

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis aims to contribute to our understanding of the development and significance of anti-colonial nationalism within Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland between 1953 and 1964. Reappraising the work of David Mulford and Robert Rotberg, the thesis will focus upon the means by which Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party and Hastings Banda’s Malawi Congress Party came to dominate the national agenda in the 1950s and 60s. Emphasis will be placed upon the extent to which African politicians successfully mobilised the African people against the Federation, translating complex political arguments and winning support for their own, exclusive, national ideal.

Galvanised by the imposition of the Central African Federation, the political elite embarked upon an ambitious programme to politically educate the African masses. The initial objective was to win African advancement within the Federal context in the hope that this might eventually translate into African majority government. When such changes were not forthcoming, and when the Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesian governments embarked upon a campaign to suppress African political parties in 1959, nationalist objectives subsequently changed. As the British appeared blind to African politicisation, political leaders turned away from Britain as the supposed ‘protector’ of African interests and instead came to call for African self-government in an independent Zambia and Malawi. In so doing they drew upon the support of powerful pan-African, and international, allies who encouraged MCP and UNIP politicians to accept nothing less than their desired goal of independence and helped to place pressure upon the British government to resolve an increasingly untenable situation in Central Africa.

The thesis will contribute to the historiography in two principal ways. In the first instance, the thesis will seek to contemporise accounts of the rise of nationalism that emerged in the immediate post-independence period, proposing that the rise of UNIP and the MCP was not always as inevitable as such accounts would imply. Rather, it depended upon the initiative, foresight, and abilities of African politicians in winning the confidence and support of the African masses. It depended also, after 1959, upon the ability of nationalist leaders to forge links between party and nation and, crucially, upon an expanding network of pan-African and international anticolonial allies. It is here that the thesis will hope to make an original contribution to the prevailing historiography by demonstrating that the development of nationalism did not solely occur within an exclusively Zambian-Malawian context. The success of mobilisation campaigns, and indeed the independence struggle, rested heavily upon the support of external allies who proved vital in both pressuring the British and lending moral and financial support to African politicians. By such means, it is hoped that the thesis will go some way to emphasising the importance of extending the study of Zambian and Malawian independence beyond the traditional metropolitan-peripheral axis.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2013


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