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Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland

a territory in Southern Africa that was once part of the British Commonwealth of Nations

The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland consisted of the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia and the protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. It had a total area of 484,529 square miles (Southern Rhodesia, 150,333 sq mi; Northern Rhodesia, 288,130 sq mi; Nyasaland, 196,399 sq mi) and a population of about 9,030,000. The federal capital and largest city was Salisbury. A Governor-General represented the British Crown in the Federation, while a Prime Minister was responsible for governing the territory. The Prime Minister headed a Cabinet drawn from the Federal Assembly.

map of the Federation

The elements on the shield on the Federation flag were drawn from the shields of the participating territories -- the gold rising sun came from that of Nyasaland; the red lion from that of Southern Rhodesia; and the six vertical black and white "wavy lines," representing Victoria Falls, from that of Northern Rhodesia.

flag of the Federation


David Livingstone reached the Zambezi River in 1851, Victoria Falls in 1855, and Lake Nyasa in 1859. Livingstone's father-in-law, Robert Moffat, founded the first mission in the Southern Rhodesia area in 1859. In 1888, the Matabele tribe granted mineral rights for the area south of the Zambezi River to Cecil Rhodes, a British financier. Rhodes chartered his British South Africa Company in 1889. That same year, he obtained mineral rights to the area north of the Zambezi River from the Barotse tribe. In 1890, British settlers from Bechuanaland founded Salisbury. The last of a series of tribal uprisings was crushed in 1892. In 1895, the British South Africa Company named its territory Rhodesia, in honor of Cecil Rhodes.

The Church of Scotland built a mission in the Nyasaland area in 1875. The British Central African Protectorate was established in 1891, and was renamed the Nyasaland Protectorate in 1907.

In 1898, the British government recognized Southern and Northern Rhodesia as separate territories, with the Zambezi River as the "dividing line." The white settlers of Southern Rhodesia voted for self-government in 1922. Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony in 1923, and Northern Rhodesia became a protectorate in 1924.

Great Britain established the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1953.

A constitutional conference in 1960 gave Africans a majority in the Nyasaland Legislature. White voters approved a new constitution for Southern Rhodesia in 1961, but the Africans demanded more representation. Federation Prime Minister Sir Roy Welensky opposed a new constitution for Northern Rhodesia, but the British government granted one in 1962.

The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was formally dissolved on December 31, 1963. The Protectorate of Nyasaland became the Republic of Malawi on July 6, 1964; Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia on October 24, 1964; and Southern Rhodesia declared itself the independent Republic of Rhodesia on November 11, 1965. Rhodesia renamed itself the Republic of Zimbabwe in 1980.


World Book Encyclopedia Chicago: Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, 1964

See Also

David Livingstone
Republic of Malawi
Republic of Zambia
Republic of Zimbabwe

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The Robinson Library >> Southern Africa (General)

This page was last updated on December 31, 2018.