Printer Friendly



This article joins the debate on culture, history and politics in post-colonial Malawi. Concentrating on the production of history in the 1960s, the paper shows how the decade marked the beginnings of serious research, teaching and public discourse of Malawi's history. It proceeds to examine factors, such as the existing literature, which helped to fashion the direction which the players, mainly teachers and researchers, took in accomplishing their tasks. In this connection the paper considers the manner in which Harry Johnston, the first person to write widely on the peoples of the Lake Malawi region, influenced the historiography of the country. It also evaluates the role of the Society of Malawi and its publication, the Society of Malawi Journal, in the production of history. Finally, the article pays attention to the ways in which the work of historians was affected by President Kamuzu Banda and the policies and actions of his ruling Malawi Congress Party.

AMONG NOTABLE developments which have accompanied the democratization process in Malawi during the past five years has been a review of the factors which led to these transformations in a country which for thirty years had been absolutely dominated by Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and his Malawi Congress Party. Some students of Malawian affairs have examined the process itself by tracing the emergence of the various wings of opposition groups, their agendas and programmes and their efforts at establishing and maintaining a coalition against the ruling party. These scholars have also discussed the pressures which forced the government to negotiate with the advocates for change.(1) Two of the more challenging studies evaluate the central role of culture in the survival of Kamuzu Banda in Malawi. In his article, Lupenga Mphande presents Banda as a person obsessed with the neo-colonial culture which he had acquired during his long stay in the West and how he `regulated literary production in Malawi so as to maintain British cultural hegemony ... as part of an overall plan of and for an African autocracy'. Mphande uses the Writers Group of Malawi as an example of not only how underground opposition to Banda was organized and sustained, but also how some people in the literary field tried to endure the oppressive atmosphere during Banda's long rule.(2) For his part, Peter Forster examines how even long before returning to Malawi, the former dictator believed in the existence of a phenomenon called Malawian culture, how he invented--or allowed to be invented--aspects of this culture and how he then used it to sustain himself in power. So, although Forster appreciates the fact that the Western way of life influenced Banda's view of the world, he does not necessarily see him as a captive of Western-British cultural hegemony; rather, he regards Banda as a person determined on imposing his own version of Malawian cultural nationalism.(3)

This article contributes to the debate by examining a related subject, the production of history in Malawi in the 1960s. Production of history will be used here in its widest sense to include research, writing, teaching, museums, and discussion of historical topics through radio and the print media. The 1960s were a particularly important period in this regard because it witnessed the transition of Malawi from colonial status to an independent nation state. It was also in the 1960s that the first university was established in Malawi, marking the beginning of programmes of historical research and teaching at a serious academic level. This article discusses the way in which the literature of the time influenced the teaching and research of history and, in this connection, particular attention is paid to some of the writings of Harry Johnston, the first British Commissioner to the Lake Malawi region, and to that of the Society of Malawi, especially its publication, the Society of Malawi Journal. The last section of the article examines the manner in which Kamuzu Banda and the Malawi Congress Party attempted to direct and control public discourse of the country's past.

The situation at Independence in 1964

When Malawi attained independence from Britain in July 1964, there was no university in the country. The highest institute of learning was the recently opened Soche Hill College which trained secondary school teachers to diploma level. The college's history syllabus was meant to enable the students to prepare their wards for the Cambridge University `O' and `A' level examinations. The focus of the syllabus was Europe and the expansion of the British Empire, with special emphasis on Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The very few Malawian teachers with university degrees had qualified at institutions where the syllabi was traditional in the sense that no meaningful African history was taught. The same applied to expatriate teachers, the majority of whom were trained in British universities where non-European courses tended to cover imperial rather than African history. It is also true that many European teachers were reluctant to change the history syllabus because they did not believe in African history outside the Empire and also because of the general challenges which a shift to African history posed.(4) But, even if teachers and the Department of Education had wanted to include Malawian history in the school syllabus, they would not have been very successful because little research had been undertaken on the history of the protectorate.

The establishment of the University of Malawi in 1964 was to go a long way in redressing this imbalance. Africa was to occupy a prominent position in the syllabus of the history department in the new institution and, as might be expected, a history of Malawi course was to be offered. The latter presented a big problem in that, although colonial Malawi had been the subject of some of the academic books that had been published in the 1950s and early 1960s,(5) there was no significant set of standard publications which could be used as a basis for an undergraduate course. However, there were numerous articles published in the Nyasaland Journal which, since the first issue appeared in January 1948, had devoted much space to papers on an historical and anthropological nature. Such articles provided academics with a wide variety of sources with which to embark on research and also with which to launch the History of Malawi course. The history department was to do both things with the results that the first course on Malawi, like some of the publications of the 1960s and 1970s, bore an imprint of the journal. The journal also published a broad range of articles on topics such as hunting and travel, farming, fauna and flora, ethnography and history. In many ways, the journal was continuing with the pattern and tradition established by the polyglot Harry Johnston mainly in his British Central Africa which, in line with the author's wide interests, discussed a variety of subjects.(6) It is in order therefore that we briefly discuss Johnston's own contribution to the production of history in the 1960s before we examine the influence of the Nyasaland Society.

Sir Harry Johnston and the Lake Malawi region

Although Johnston's intellectual curiosity cannot be doubted,(7) it is true that his publications on Malawi were also motivated by the desire to understand the country in order to better administer its peoples and more effectively exploit its resources. However, in the process of writing about the various peoples of the region, Johnson established stereotypes which, as time progressed, became accepted as constituting part of those societies. Many of his representations were to remain unchallenged until well into the post-colonial period. In both British Central Africa and the African sections of his autobiography, The Story of My Life,(8) Johnson devotes much space to the Yao speakers of the southern Lake Malawi region. This is not surprising as, just prior to the European Partition of Africa, the Yao established their authority in the region which had previously been the sole domain of the indigenous Mang'anja/Nyanja peoples. This was the very area which the British were to declare as the protectorate. The area included the upper reaches of the Shire river which at the time was the only practical access via steam boat to the northern portions of what was to be Nyasaland. The Yao most strongly resisted British rule and, in this way, presented a major impediment to the creation of a Pax Britannica in this part of Africa.

Even though Johnston was not a religious person, not particularly fond of Christian missionaries and not strongly against Islam, he painted the Yao as if Islam, the religion professed by some of them, was the major factor behind their actions.(9) This representation of the Yao to the British government and to the British public, especially those who supported the Christian missionary effort in the region, was bound to be effective and to win approval for his harsh punitive expeditions against a people who were basically interested in commerce and in ensuring that they were comfortable in their relatively new environments. British authority had just been declared over the Shire region largely due to pressure from the Scottish missions which had been working in the area since the 1870s. The Scots had partly argued that they did not want to lose the Shire region to the Catholic Portuguese who had designs over the area, nor did they want to see Islam extended to an area which they thought should be the preserve of Protestant Christian influence.(10) Thus the Yao became a difficult people or, as Johnston liked to describe them, recalcitrant; they had to be closely watched because they were not only a block to British sovereignty and thus Pax Britannica but were also against Christianity, a major vehicle of Western civilization. When the Yao resisted British sovereignty, especially the manner in which it was imposed, immense force was used to bring them to their heels.(11) The effect of this was only to confirm the categorization of the Yao speakers as a hard and unco-operative people.

Johnston commented on other people of the region but mostly on those in the areas where the British were actively engaged in colonial expansion in the 1880s and 1890s. The Mang'anja, who inhabited most of the Shire Highlands and in whose territory many British were to settle, were presented as docile, agricultural communities whose life had been disrupted by the Yao. The Yao attempted to live peacefully with the Mang'anja, but their pursuit of agricultural activities and their desire for normal commercial relations with other peoples, including Europeans, barely received attention.(12) In a way Johnson sought to give the impression that the arrival of the British saved the Mang'anja from total domination by the Yao and, therefore, that colonialism was a good thing for Africans of the area.

The Ngoni also received much attention from Johnston, and he seems to have been fascinated by the people of the mfecane and especially their linkages with Shaka and the emergence of the Zulu empire. The ferociousness associated with the Nguni peoples was proved by two developments: Chikusi's resistance to the British intrusion, and the insistence of the Livingstonia Mission that no attempt be made to force the area under the jurisdiction of M'mbelwa to fall under British authority until the proper time came. The Mission was afraid that imposing British sovereignty on M'mbelwa's Ngoni would meet violent opposition and would greatly disrupt their work in the region.(13) To a point, the Ngonde and the Tonga in the north were also subjects of Johnston's study. The former had found themselves at the centre of the conflict between the Swahili-Arabs and the British in the 1880s and 1890s and, like the Mang'anja, they were presented as placid noble savages who had to be protected from Swahili-Arab and, thus, Islamic influence. Bandawe in Tonga country was to be a major centre of Scottish missionary activity and, partly because of this, the Tonga also attracted Johnston's attention.(14)

When Johnston had established Pax Britannica in Malawi, he began to build a small army which was to be dominated by the Yao and the Ngoni, the very people who had vehemently opposed the imposition of colonial rule. His view on the Yao changed drastically, and he now sought to present them as tough and dependable soldiers. The image of the foes of the British was being re-invented, and it is one which was to remain with them throughout the colonial period and beyond. The Yao were to feature prominently in the military and the police, and those who were also Muslims were favoured by Europeans as domestic servants, because of their reputation as honest and clean people. The Ngoni, whom he described as a `splendid people and may be regarded as a backbone of Central Africa',(15) were also to be recruited into the colonial security forces, and many became overseers in the numerous settler farming establishments which developed from the 1890s onwards.

Johnston relied heavily on the writings of other Britons who had lived and worked in the lake Nyasa region during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.(16) However, as a very widely read individual and a good synthesizer who was interested in, among other fields, anthropology and history, Johnston was not only able to present African life in a way that reflected his personal views but he was also able to place the African peoples of the region within the broader context of the on-going anthropological debates. Thus he discussed his subjects with some authority and so gave much respectability and publicity to his opinions on the Lake Malawi region. Johnston considered himself a monogenesist and a negrophile and, like many scholars of the time, he was pre-occupied with classification and sub-classification of peoples. He also embraced anthropometry and became one of its leading exponents.(17) In his chapter, `The Natives of British Central Africa', Johnston gives the physical measurements of the anatomy of African men and women and, interestingly, he had a habit of discussing the reproductive parts of the body in Latin, presumably because sections dealing with such matters were the preserve of the educated European who, it was hoped, would not be embarrassed by minutia of this kind.(18) Even though to most people today such detailed exercises appear ridiculous, Johnston's `research' was in keeping with the physical anthropology of the time; it was also part of the fixation with the African as a sexual animal. Thus, the peoples of the Lake Nyasa area were not only being classified but, in the process, were being given an identity in the new imperial order.

Deborah Root has shown how art, including landscape painting, has been used to objectify peoples and cultures.(19) In this respect too, Johnston, an accomplished painter, played a major role in objectifying African peoples. Although earlier expeditions such as Livingstone's had, through artists, presented images of the Lake Malawi region, Johnston was the first to systematically draw and paint the peoples, fauna and flora and landscape, and to employ such works of art to elaborate the issues addressed in his publications. Johnston's books also contained some photographs of African peoples in different postures; other photographs showed Africans together with Europeans. Not only did his works of art, photographs and the narratives serve to show the differences between European culture and that of the Africans, they also began--and, in some cases, advanced further--the objectification of the peoples of Malawi. Even though Malawi is often referred to as `Livingstone's country', it was Johnston who invented it. He was involved in the establishment of its boundaries, he created the administrative structures--including the tax collecting systems--he synthesized, added to and commented on, the existing literature of the peoples of the region; his books were widely read by missionaries, administrators, businessmen, settler planters and even by academics. They were interested in, among other things, his views on African peoples, agriculture, mission work, relations with the neighbouring Portuguese territory, and colonial administration. It is not surprising that nearly all influential publications dealing with late nineteenth century Malawi rely heavily on Johnston's works.(20) The paucity of academic publications on Malawi in the 1960s meant that teachers of, and researchers on, the country's history had to rely on Johnston's own works, and on Hannah, Oliver, Stokes and others.

The Nyasaland Society and the Nyasaland Journal

As pointed out earlier, many of the topics examined by Sir Harry Johnston were to be revisited by the Nyasaland Society which was formed in 1946. The aims of the Society were `to promote interest in literacy, historical and scientific matters among individuals of all races in the protectorate and to discuss and place in record fact and information about its peoples'.(21) The avowed non-racial character of the Society is interesting mainly because colonialism tended to encourage separation between the rulers and the ruled, and this was propped up by the prevailing racial attitudes which perpetuated the feeling of otherness. Even though in time some Africans joined the Society, the organization was very much the domain of Europeans, principally from the settler farming community, commercial and industrial firms and from the colonial civil service.(22) Meetings took place in Blantyre and on such occasions elections of committee members were conducted, a statement of accounts and other reports of interest to the membership were also presented. Finally, the main speaker of the day would deliver his or her talk, and the audience would be given the opportunity to ask questions. Political matters, that is, subjects deemed to be critical of colonial rule, were not formally discussed at meetings. This is not surprising in view of the dominant membership, and of the fact that, throughout, the patron of the Society was the Governor of the colony. Indeed, in many respects, the Society's interests lay in the perpetuation of the entity created by Sir Harry Johnston and, to this extent, it supported the status quo and, through its discussions, it saw itself as promoting a better understanding of the cultures of the peoples of Nyasaland. Although many Europeans belonged to various social clubs and, although it is also true that some of them went to the same churches every Sunday, there can be no doubt that the Society's meetings provided an opportunity for Europeans from different occupations and even from different parts of the colony to renew acquaintances and to discuss informally matters of mutual interest.(23) In a way, symbolically, the Annual General Meetings were an affirmation of British presence and authority in the Lake Malawi region.

From January 1948, the Nyasaland Society started publishing the Nyasaland Journal, which began to feature some of the talks presented at its gatherings. It was also to publish some articles submitted by serious researchers and by amateurs on a wide variety of subjects. The articles are most fascinating primarily because of the broad range of issues which they covered. Many were on flora and fauna, and were written by experts and laymen, and they form a good introduction to any researcher interested in pursuing topics in, among other areas, zoology, ecology, entomology and taxonomy. There are may articles of interest to social, economic, cultural and political historians. They include numerous articles on travel, adventure and hunting; some of these are on types of transport in late nineteenth century Malawi, early steamships, the first roads between Blantyre and Zomba, on reminiscences of life in Nyasaland in the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, the first Blantyre-Zomba roads and the rest-houses on it, the early postal system, life on settler farms. The Journal also published articles on war: British pacification, especially the conflicts with the Arab-Swahili, and clashes with the Yao; some of the Europeans who had participated in the First World War also contributed articles on this particular conflict.

Easily the most active and influential contributor to the Nyasaland Journal was William Rangeley, an administrator in the colonial civil service from 1935 to March, 1958 when he died. Born in 1910 in the Fort Jameson (now Chipata) District of :Northern Rhodesia, Rangeley went to school in Southern Rhodesia and attended Diocesan College in Cape Town before going to Oxford and finally joining the government service in Nyasaland.(24) Between 1948 and 1958, Rangeley wrote seven articles, starting with `Notes on Chewa Tribal Law',(25) and ending with `The Makololo of Livingstone'.(26) Eight more articles were published posthumously in the period between 1959 and 1964. Although, unlike Harry Johnston, his interests do not seem to have extended to linguistics and the natural sciences, Rangeley's articles demonstrate a broad appreciation of the humanities and the social sciences. To this extent, he was a successor to the intellectual curiosity of a long line of Nyasaland's colonial civil servants, the father of which was Johnston. A few of Rangeley's articles will now be briefly reviewed so as to show his contribution to the production of Malawi's history.

Rangeley's first article, `Notes on Chewa Tribal Law', was published in the second volume of the Nyasaland Journal in 1948. Most likely researched in the mid-1940s when he was District Commissioner in Nkota-Kota, this very long article set out to codify what he considered to be customary law. It starts with a brief presentation of Chewa traditions of migration. The article proceeds to assume the reader's knowledge of the emergence of the Chewa political systems and, after the introductory section, goes straight into a discussion of `tribal law' which, in effect, refers to Rangeley's understanding of political and socio-cultural order in precolonial and colonial Chewa country. The mwini dziko (owner of the land) who is described as the chief, was at the centre of maintaining this order, and was the ultimate judge in any matter which disturbed harmony in his domain. The article goes into great detail to describe many different situations which might arise, and the manner in which the chief might deal with them. In other words, this was an attempt to codify the procedures of conflict resolution in Chewa society. As Chanock has said of similar exercises in other parts of Africa, people such as Rangeley were simply writing down `rules of customary laws which were supposedly certain and enforceable by courts'.(27) However, as critics have pointed out such efforts tended to ignore the fact that transformations were continuously taking place in African societies in response to changing circumstances.(28) Such changes inevitably affected the way in which African societies tackled conflict resolution.

In colonial Malawi, District Commissioners also acted as magistrates and heard appeal cases from Native Authority Courts, which were considered as the lower courts. So Rangeley's interest in the subject may have been influenced by a number of factors. He was probably motivated by the need to understand better the functioning of the indigenous judicial systems and thereby help other field administrators to more effectively preside over cases brought to them. His efforts must also be viewed within the context of the system of local government which was emerging in the colony. Under the Native Authorities Act of 1933 and the Native Courts Ordinance of the same year, the role of the chiefs in the colonial administrative and judicial structures were constantly being reviewed, and Rangeley probably regarded his article on Chewa law as strengthening the new local government system. Indeed, in this respect he was convinced that early in the colonial period the authority of the chiefs had been diluted, and he regarded the Native Courts Act as having restored their judicial powers.(29) Finally, Rangeley was almost certainly interested in African law from a purely academic point of view. He held a Bachelor of Arts degree and a diploma in anthropology from the University of Oxford, an institution which was one of the main centres of research in African political and legal systems.(30) Undoubtedly his anthropological training must have prepared him for the type of research which he pursued in Nyasaland.

Most of Rangeley's articles which appeared in the Nyasaland Journal were historical and anthropological in nature. Like Johnston, Rangeley believed that the indigenous people of the Lake Malawi area were short pygmoid people who were conquered by the stronger invading Bantuspeaking settlers. He said this of the Chewa region and argued the same point in his article on iron production among the Phoka.(31) According to Rangeley, it was the short people who were skilled in iron smelting and who taught the newcomers, in this case the Phoka and other Tumbuka-speaking peoples, the technicalities of metallurgy. He refers to the early indigenous peoples as miners, and then links this economic activity with mineral production in the area south of the Zambezi, that is, the Mutapa and contemporary states.(32) The connection between the two regions is made without providing substantial evidence; the assertion is clearly absurd and it is difficult to understand how he even came to speculate about it. On the other hand it is easy to see how he came to embrace and champion the theory of the early pygmoid people. At the time, most of the theories on Bantu migration regarded Bantu-speaking peoples as invaders of the vast territories previously inhabited by the pygmy types.(33) There were (and still are) legends in many communities in Malawi which told of short people who had once lived in the area but had disappeared to the mountains.(34) Although Rangeley disagreed with aspects of these tales, he gave some respectability to them and they were to be taken seriously by both Malawians and Europeans living in Nyasaland.(35)

Rangeley also wrote on the more modern `invaders', the Ngoni, the Yao, the Arabs and the Portuguese. He had nothing significant to contribute to the latter two peoples and, in the case of the article on the Arabs, Rangeley devotes disproportionate attention to Arab traders in Eastern Africa, and says very little of importance beyond Johnston on their activities in the Lake Malawi region. The Arabs are presented as slavers and confusionists.(36) His treatment of the Portuguese is not original either. In fact the article is primarily a discussion of the role of the Portuguese in the European exploration of Africa, and the way in which they came to occupy and rule Mozambique. Of course, there is the inevitable mention of their designs over southern Malawi in the 1880s and how this contributed to the declaration of British rule over Nyasaland. As in all his publications, Rangeley does not provide his sources, although they seem to have been the general works on Europe and Africa.(37) In spite of these weaknesses, however, the papers were read by members of the society and by teachers who were happy to have access to the type of synthesis which was otherwise difficult to come by.

To a point, Rangeley's articles on the Yao and the Ngoni also suffer from some of the same generalities of those just discussed. Although he appears to have interviewed some old Ngoni, probably in the late 1940s and early 1950s when he was District Commissioner in Mzimba, over half of the Ngoni article is about the history of the Nguni peoples in the preand post-mfecane period. The rest of the article is about the migration of Zwangendaba and his party and the final settlement of the Ngoni in Malawi. Besides migration, Rangeley was also concerned with establishing the genealogy of Zwangendaba and his successors, and so the article is partly a dynastic history of the Ngoni. The paper also fosters the generally held view which presented the Ngoni as warriors, wild and unpredictable. There is no discussion of the manner in which they interacted with the indigenous peoples amongst whom they settled nor does he attempt to examine the way in which the Ngoni state functioned.(38) The Yao paper starts with a brief history of their migration from the Lujenda region of Mozambique into the southern Lake Malawi region. This is followed by a discussion of the cordial relations between them and their hosts, the Mang'anja, and the subsequent suspicion and conflict which developed when the various Yao polities established dominance in the area. Rangeley was careful not to present the Yao as one group but rather as diverse, consisting of sub-divisions such as the Machinga and Mangoche. In an interesting way he shows how initially the Yao, a matrilineal and matrilocal people, resisted Islam, the patri-centred religion, but how, nevertheless, they later adopted it and imposed `it on their traditional tribal life without any dislocation of that life'.(39)

In spite of the fact that Rangeley did not always discuss his sources, he seems to have conducted some extensive oral interviews, and this makes his presentation of the Yao different from that of Johnston. Although he accepted Johnston's identification of the Yao Rangeley did not regard them as homogenous. He was interested in their clan structures and discussed their political and social systems; furthermore, he discussed their economic activities, particularly their interest in production and commerce. Thus, although, like Johnston and many other colonial administrators, Rangeley viewed the Yao in anti-British terms, this article occupies an important place in the historiography of Malawi.(40) It should be pointed out that Rangeley's other research, including his work on indigenous institutions such as the Mbona cult and Nyau, was a major contribution to our understanding of the cultural and religious history of the Lake Malawi-Northern Zambezia region. He laid the foundation upon which future scholars such as Mathew Schoffeleers and Kings Phiri would base their own studies which further advanced our appreciation of the Malawian past.(41)

Other people consistently published articles of interest to historians. However, the work of only two of them, John Pike and Colin Baker, will be briefly discussed here. For twelve years, Pike was a Government hydrologist in Malawi, and the nature of his work took him to different comers of the country, thus giving him the rare opportunity to meet a wide spectrum of people. Between 1957 and 1965, the Journal published a number of his papers on hydrology and the pre-colonial history of Nyasaland, and for three years he served on the Society's committee. In 1965, he and Rimmington, a teacher at Dedza Secondary School, published Malawi: a Geographical Study(42) which remains one of the major geography texts on Malawi. In 1968, Pall Mall Press published Pike's Malawi: a Political and Economic History which, as the bibliography shows, benefited in no small measure from the historical articles :in the Nyasaland Journal. Indeed, the sections on pre-colonial and early colonial history are primarily a synthesis of, among others, Rangeley, Pike himself, and Desmond Clark.(43) However, it is a disappointing book in that, in spite of the plethora of material on the pre-colonial period, Pike was mainly pre-occupied with migration and settlement, devoting little space to social, cultural and economic processes. Even the development of political institutions is barely discussed in a book which purports to be on political and economic history. The colonial period suffers from numerous imbalances, not the least being the treatment of peasant economies and early protest movements. Although the book was never adopted as a textbook in Malawi, it was widely used by secondary school teachers and university students from the late 1960s onwards.

Colin Baker was another colonial administrator whose intellectual curiosity seems to have led him into research into different facets of Malawian past very early in his career. Between 1958 and 1969 the Nyasaland Journal published more than twelve of his articles on topics ranging from the migration of the Lomwe into Nyasaland, to the history of early Blantyre. These and other articles, including those on the history of the export trade and on early colonial administration, influenced Pike's Malawi in a notable way. Like many contributions to the Nyasaland Journal, most of Baker's articles tended to be factual, with not much significant analysis or commentary. His work also influenced other commentators such as Bridglal Pachai who was a founding member and, later, Head of the Department of History in the University of Malawi.(44) Baker went on to become a full-time academic, first as Principal of the new university's Institute of Public Administration and later as a lecturer at a polytechnic in Britain. He continued to write on Malawi, and in recent years has published major books on the country's history.(45)

The Society of Malawi was involved in the production of history in another important way. In 1960, the Museum of Malawi was founded largely as a result of the efforts of some members of the Society. It is clear from the minutes of the Annual General Meetings of the Society that ever since the mid-1950s it had been decided first to convince the government and then to assist it in planning and actually establishing a museum. When a board of trustees for the museum was formed, the committee of the Society was represented on it and, in this manner, it influenced policy governing the new establishment.(46) Such policy included what the museum--with is meagre resources--was going to concentrate on initially, and how it was to develop as time progressed. In fact members of the society played a major role in collecting some of the items which formed part of the early collection of the museum. The museum had two basic sections, one specialising in flora and fauna, and the other displaying articles of historical and cultural interests. Amongst the latter, were artifacts from archaeological excavations in the country, African cultural items such as smoking pipes, pots and other cooking utensils, hoes, arrows and spears; there was also old travel and medical equipment of the first Europeans to come to the Lake Malawi area, and military apparatus and uniforms used by government forces when dealing with resisters to colonial rule in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Significantly, the first home of the museum was Mandala House, one of the original houses built by the Moir brothers of the African Lakes Company, the first major European commercial concern to operate in the region.

The museum attracted many patrons, especially on Sundays when families in the Blantyre-Limbe areas often visited it. School parties also went to view the collection. In this way it became another site where history and culture became the subject of public debate; to some people the museum provided visible historical and cultural information of which they were not aware or which they had forgotten about. However, it was an education very much influenced by the displays, the nature of which was determined by policy formulated by the Board of Trustees. In other words the museum's representation of Malawi's past and culture was very much influenced by people who in colonial times had been associated with dominance,(47) Some of the artifacts on display had come from that archaeological excavations carried out by scholars partly sponsored by the new Department of Antiquities whose foundation was greatly influenced by the Museum of Malawi. The department also financed the publication of a number of short monographs on the history of Malawi, and they concentrated mostly on pre-history and the late nineteenth century.(48)

The History Department in the University of Malawi

When members of the History Department in the University of Malawi planned the Malawi syllabus and their research priorities, the Nyasaland Journal was a starting point. Articles by Rangeley and others shaped their lectures and also provided them with data on pre-colonial Malawi.(49) In 1967, the History Department organized its first major conference with the aim of acquainting secondary school teachers with the latest thinking on Malawi history and, because of this, each school was represented by a history teacher. Amongst the people invited to present papers were J.D. Omer-Cooper from the University of Zambia and Edward Alpers from the University of Dar es Salaam, both of whom were working on revisionist history which touched upon the past of the Lake Malawi region. Omer-Cooper had just published his Zulu Aftermath which at the time presented a new perspective on the rise to power of Shaka;(50) Alpers had written a thesis on the role of Yao traders in the international ivory trade. However, neither Omer-Cooper nor Alpers presented anything significantly new on Malawi; the former's treatment of the Ngoni in Malawi was not radically different from Rangeley, neither was Alper's treatment of the Yao of Malawi a major departure from Rangeley. The traditional view of the Ngoni settlement in Malawi and Zambia as invincible conquerors with almost no vulnerabilities was perpetuated in the Omer-Cooper presentation. Pretorius' paper on the Dutch Reformed Church was very close in style to the articles in the Nyasaland Journal; Pachai's discussion of Christian missions and early colonial history benefited from recent research, including that of John McCracken and Andrew Ross, both of whom were critical of Scottish missionary enterprise in the Lake Malawi area. Generally though, the imprint of the Society of Malawi was evident on all the pre-colonial and early colonial presentations at the conference. The proceedings of the conference were mimeographed, bound and sold as Malawi Past and Present, and were to form the main factual guideline for history teachers for most of the 1960s and 1970s.(51)

Kamuzu Banda, the Malawi Congress Party and their effect on the production of history

All the developments just discussed took place against the background of the increasing dominance in everyday life of the Malawi Congress Party and of the emergence of Dr Kamuzu Banda as the virtual dictator of the country. Both phenomena were to profoundly affect the production of history in Malawi. Even before returning to Malawi in 1958 to lead the fight for independence, Dr Banda had been sold to Malawians as a person whose life story was extraordinary: walking to Southern Rhodesia to seek employment, and then proceeding to South Africa where he worked for some years before going to the United States of America where he completed his secondary education, read for a BA degree in history and philosophy at the University of Chicago and completed medical studies at the Meharry Medical College in Tennessee. In the late 1930s he went to Great Britain where he worked until 1953 when he emigrated to the Gold Coast. His return to Malawi in July 1958, followed by a re-organization of the Nyasaland African Congress, heightened political activism which was to lead to a state of emergency and the imprisonment of thousands of people, including Banda and some of his most prominent lieutenants such as Henry Chipembere, Dunduzu and Yatuta Chisiza and Lali Lubani. The zenith of nationalism was reached in July 1964 when Nyasaland became the independent nation of Malawi.(52)

The adoption of the name of Malawi was itself a correction of a colonial representation in that the designation, Nyasaland, had derived from Nyasa which name David Livingstone had given to the third largest freshwater lake in Africa. As it turns out, Livingstone had misunderstood the fact that Nyanja in ciMang'anja or, Nyasa in ciYao, referred to the vast expanse of water which the famous traveller encountered in 1859.(53) In effect, he had christened it Lake. But, more: important, is that when British Central Africa became Nyasaland in 1904, the African peoples of the colony began to be referred to as the Nyasas, a name which became widely known in the Southern African region as many men from underdeveloped Nyasaland sought jobs in the mines and farms of South Africa and the Rhodesias.(54) The name Malawi derived from the pre-colonial polity of Maravi, which at its height in the seventeenth century had extended between the present Eastern Zambia to the west and the Mozambique-Malawi border region in the east. In a way therefore, the adoption of the new name was not a completely accurate representation in the sense that ancient Maravi covered only part of the Nyasaland Protectorate. However, the choice of the name Malawi was very much in keeping with Banda's own understanding of the history of the region. He always maintained that the present borders of Malawi are not a reflection of the historical situation of the area because the Maravi state was much bigger than the entity created by the British at the end of the nineteenth century.(55)

In any event, the euphoria of independence was short-lived for, barely six weeks into the life of the new nation, most of the politicians who had invited Kamuzu Banda home and had helped him to build the Malawi Congress Party into a formidable organization, fell from favour during the cabinet crisis of August 1964. The majority of them went into exile in Zambia and Tanganyika, thereby depriving Malawi of a generation of very able politicians who, besides producing ideas, could provide constructive criticism of the new Prime Minister.(56) Most of the cabinet ministers who replaced those who had gone into exile were ill-educated, and became increasingly sycophantic towards Banda, elevating him to the deposition of a demi-god. This image as further promoted by the Malawi Congress Party, through its paper, the Malawi News, and the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.

A major casualty of the 1964 cabinet crisis was free discussion of the recent political history of the country. One could not mention the names of Henry Chipembere or Kanyama Chiume, the young politicians who had been amongst the first African elected members of the colonial legislature under the new arrangements of the mid-1950s. They were the leading Western-educated activists of the time, and had been instrumental in paving the way for Kamuzu Banda's return to the country in 1958.(57) Both politicians were now living in exile and, like all the others in their position, were considered as `rebels'; to mention their names in everyday conversation was `illegal' and could easily lead to one's detention in one of the notorious camps that were mushrooming in the country. Their role in the anti-colonial struggle was being deliberately obliterated from the memories of Malawians. During national festivities when the political history of the country was expressed and re-enacted on radio, in newspapers, at national and local party gatherings and in schools, a version of history was presented that was in keeping with the feelings of the post-1964 cabinet crisis Malawi Congress Party. One example will illustrate the point. Soon after independence, 3 March was declared Martyrs Day, a national holiday that was to be observed in a sombre manner to honour those who had died during the fight for decolonization. Especially remembered were those who had died during the Chilembwe uprising 1915, the civil disobedience and riots of 1953 in Ntcheu, Thyolo and Zomba and during the events of March 1959 which led to the state of emergency which in turn was followed by the Devlin Royal Commission of Inquiry.(58) Each Sunday preceding 3 March, Dr Banda would attend a Church service at which reference would be made to the anti-colonial struggles, but no mention would be made of the people and activities of the 1950s which had directly contributed to independence. In fact, as years went by, Banda's role in decolonization was highlighted at the expense of all those who had actively politicized the Malawian masses long before Banda returned home. Furthermore, the place of earlier resisters, such as John Chilembwe and the organizers and participants of the riots and civil disobedience of 1953, were minimized even though they were expected to occupy a prominent position on Martyrs Day. Throughout the day, Radio Malawi played songs and music relating to the struggle, participants in the resistance, or their relatives were interviewed on the radio. It also became an annual practice for Radio Malawi to re-broadcast excerpts of Banda's speeches, which, as might be expected, did not contain any references to the contributions to nationalism made by the exiled politicians. Again, the version of history that was being inculcated in the minds of the new generation of Malawians was that which was approved by Dr Banda and his ruling party. This became the official history, and anybody departing from it was regarded as anti-government, a `rebel', a `confusionist', an `ungrateful' pennon and, therefore, someone deserving detention without trial. Thus, although to an extent Malawi history became a public domain, the discourse concerning it was now controlled and directed by the machinery of the Malawi Congress Party.(59)

When the University of Malawi opened in 1964-65, the new version of Malawi history was already being propagated. The history of Malawi course had to be taught selectively to avoid the intervention of the government police network. Even though the research interest of most of the first members of the Department was in twentieth century Malawi, especially in nationalism, education and social change, there was a limit to which they could pursue their inquiries. Scholars always assumed that field research trips were monitored by the various security agencies, and informants were not prepared to risk being heard pronouncing the names of some of the political activists who were regarded as rebels. To make the situation more difficult, access to the National Archives, which strictly observed the forty year rule, was most difficult, and few people were granted permission by the Office of the President to consult material deposited there. Manuscripts which had benefited from the Government archives had to be cleared by, among others, the Ministry of Local Government, the Office of the President and the Censorship Board before they could be published. One has to read Malawi Past and Present to appreciate how dry and selective the contributions on the twentieth century are, and yet this was what the teachers were to teach in Malawi schools for most of the 1960s and 1970s.(60)

Kamuzu himself personally played a leading role in the production of history in the 1960s, and he did this in a number of ways. First, although he never talked about his age, the fact that he had lived for most of the twentieth century meant that he had been a witness to history and therefore could confidently comment on many events of the past: he had been taught by some of the early Church of Scotland missionaries based at Kasungu,(61) had been a labour migrant in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa and, while working in Great Britain and Ghana, he had been a major supporter of the Malawian nationalist cause. He had studied history at university and, as Peter Forster has demonstrated, he had also come to develop interest in what he considered as Malawian culture, a feature which was to influence many of this pronouncements on Malawi history.(62) In his public speeches and in lectures given at the University of Malawi, Banda would make definitive statements on the pre-colonial history of Africa and Malawi. Teachers would take notes at such gatherings and would repeat his version of history in their classrooms; similarly, some college students would uncritically incorporate Banda's renditions in their essays.(63) His favourite topic was the mfecane and, during `lectures' on it, he would recite Shaka's genealogy and remind his audience of the settlement of the Ndebele north of the Limpopo, and also of Zwangendaba's epic journey into modern Tanganyika and the final settling of his main party in the Malawi-Zambia area. Almost always he would talk about how his own people, the Chewa, were the only ones to defeat the Ngoni at a battle fought at Nguluyanabambe, near Kasungu, Banda's home district. He would then ask a senior party official of Ngoni origins, preferably a cabinet minister, to confirm and enact the battle of Kasungu. And whenever he was on a visit to the north of Malawi he would be met by Ngoni men dressed in traditional outfit, singing and chanting war songs praising him, the conqueror of colonialism. At major national events such as the Independence Day celebrations, party officials would ensure that Ngoni men and women featured on the programme of entertainers as he would always join them in their war dances. If the celebrations were at the national stadium in Blantyre, the practice was for Inkosi Mzukuzuku, as leader of the Ngoni group, to march in a majestic fashion to the podium where Banda would be seated and in ciNgoni (a version of Zulu) invite him to join `his warriors'. He would then have two dances with them before being escorted back to his seat. He always referred to the Ngoni as the `real warriors', `the real men'. In this way Banda was perpetuating the view of Johnston, Rangeley and many other people who had written on pre-colonial Africa.

Banda made many other pronouncements which were to affect the production of history in Malawi. Among his obsessions was a determination to show that the ancient Maravi state extended over most of modem Malawi, eastern Zambia and a significant section of modern Mozambique. At one stage this claim was used to try to negotiate with Portuguese colonial authorities for a corridor to the seaport of Nacala.(64) Again, this view of Malawi history was expected to be incorporated in the textbooks. Furthermore, he did not hesitate to use his version of Malawi history to interfere in chiefly affairs. The deposition of Chief Mwase is a good case in point. Mwase, also a Banda and the President's chief, had a remarkable career as a leader and politician; he had been chief since the 1930s, and he spent the latter part of 1939 at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, as research assistant in ciNyanja, the language spoken in central and most of southern Malawi, Eastern Zambia and parts of Mozambique. During his stay in London he had become close to his distant cousin, Kamuzu Banda, who was then practising medicine in England.(65) After the War he became an active member of the Nyasaland African Congress, and, in the early 1960s, took part in the constitutional conferences which prepared for the independence of Malawi. However, when in the early 1970s the respectable Mwase fell out of favour with the President, Kamuzu Banda deposed him from the Chewa throne in Kasungu and replaced him with Kaomba who was not well known, even in his own district. The President justified his action on the basis that people had misunderstood Chewa history, an interesting explanation when oral traditions, Portuguese and Arab records clearly give much attention to the Mwase line in the region's history.(66) Banda's version won the day and henceforth was expected to be taught in schools and colleges. All official publications and broadcasts had to reflect this version.

Fanon was correct in positing that when faced with political and socioeconomic crises, many post-colonial leaders would attempt to create or restore some legitimacy by resorting to factors which colonialism had by its nature lacked--history and its role in national unity.(67) In Malawi, imprisonment without trial and innumerable other infringements of human rights which followed the cabinet crisis of 1964, generated fear and uncertainty in the minds of many people. It also divided people as often friends reported on one another and, even more often, political detention tended to follow ethnic and regional lines. Unlike Nyerere who had Ujamaa, or Kaunda who preached the virtues of humanism, Banda had no tangible political or socio-economic ideology with which to instil hope amongst Malawians and with which he could re-unite them to the immediate pre-independence level. His answer to the increasingly confused state was to try to develop and then instil in the minds of the people a sense of national consciousness which was partly founded on his understanding of Malawi culture and history, and which he proceeded to manipulate to his own ends. As Forster points out, Banda began to preach the importance of traditional African-Malawian-values such as respect for chiefs and other elders.(68) He even added to the Malawian legal system a traditional court structure which was to handle cases which did not demand the strict law of evidence inherited from the British. Chiefs attended the annual convention of the Malawi Congress Party, a gathering which he described as the true Parliament. The chiefs were only being used to assert his influence for, in practical terms, their words were gradually being eroded. As was seen in the case of Mwase of Kasungu, Banda could--and did--depose them whenever they seemed to disagree with him.(69) His various references to history have to be seen against the background of his attempt to legitimize his increasing authoritarian style of ruling.

While always reminding his audience of his Chewa ethnicity, Banda also began to talk almost incessantly of the supremacy of national unity over ethnic affinities. Such unity could be attained and maintained by the observance of cultural traditions. The strict dress codes of the 1960s and 1970s, and the enactment and rigid enforcement of the Censorship and Control Act of 1968 which restricted to most absurd proportions the importation and publication of indeterminable forms of literature, were effected in the name of Malawian cultural and Christian traditions. The wearing of short skirts, bell-bottom trousers and long hair was declared illegal and subject to imprisonment; films and books showing or describing even mildly passionate scenes were banned under the Censorship Act. Books, magazines, journals and newspapers which raised issues which were considered to be against Banda's political views were also banned under the same Act. It was argued that this was to protect the young people of Malawi from `corrupt' Western influences.(70)

Mphande has argued that the ][imitations of freedom were instituted partly because Banda was obsessed with upholding his imperial cultural inclinations.(71) While one cannot question Banda's obsession with values associated with Victorian Britain or with anti-communism, there can be no doubt that he sought to use custom and tradition as agencies for creating some form of national consensus on is style of rule. Protecting the young from `bad influences' was bound to appeal to the older Malawians who felt increasingly threatened by youth brought up in a social climate where traditional values were increasingly challenged.(72) Banda's emphasis on custom and tradition has also to be seen as an attempt to re-create a united Malawi nation. The Cabinet Crisis of 1964 had, among other things, heightened regional and ethnic tensions, and it was important therefore to re-unite the people under his leadership.(73) Dancers representing different parts of the country were encouraged to display their art at national festivities and increasingly songs sung at occasions exhaulted Banda's leadership and, implicitly, celebrated the nation of Malawi which he headed.

About four months after the Cabinet Crisis, he announced that the capital would be moving from Zomba in the south to Lilongwe in the centre; the city also happens to be in the heartland of Chewa country which was his home reign. Relocating the capital was going to be an expensive project, but Banda justified it on the grounds that only in this way could all the peoples of Malawi have easy access to government. In 1968, ciChewa, Banda's own language, was declared the national language and, with English, was to be taught in all schools in the country. Much to the dismay of most northerners, ciChewa became one of the subjects which had to be passed in order to obtain the school certificate which is the main entry into the job market and into tertiary education. Tumbuka, spoken by most northern peoples, was dropped by Radio Malawi.(74) Two years later, Banda established the President's Fund for the study of ciChewa, history and English, the idea being to promote research into these subjects. In reality not much money went into historical research or to the encouragement of better use of English. However, the ciChewa Board was formed, and its secretariat, which also served as a research centre, was situated in Zomba which became the home of Chancellor College, the liberal arts college of the University of Malawi.(75)

Some of these measures have been seen by many as Banda's bid for the Chewa domination of Malawi. This is true to a great extent but, as Peter Forster--following Benedict Anderson--has argued, this was also a case of re-invigorating the `imagined nation' of Malawi in the post-Cabinet Crisis era.(76) Banda's actions in post-colonial Malawi are even better understood if one applies Partha Chatterjee's elaboration of the `imagined community' to the situation. According to Chatterjee, anti-colonial nationalism in Asia and Africa has two components, the material and the spiritual. The former is political and economic in nature, and is the realm of the `outside' in that it aspires to emulate Western-style government, science and technology. On the contrary, the spiritual domain is internal to the colonized, and is a potent force because it seeks to protect and advance indigenous culture; any attempts by the colonial state to tamper with traditional values and practices are met with much resistance. Chatterjee points out that it is in this area that.
   nationalism launches its most powerful creative, and significant project:
   to fashion a modern national culture that is nevertheless not Western. If
   the nation is an imagined community then this is where it is brought into

The contest between the material :and the spiritual domains continues in the post-colonial order, and Chatterjee argues that `if the nation is an imagined community and if nations also take the form of states, then we must ... talk about community and state at the same time'.(78)

It is possible to situate Banda's pre-occupation with culture in Chatterjee's analysis of post-colonial African and Asian countries. Banda attempted to establish a modern state while at the same time being concerned with preserving and, in some cases, inventing Malawian culture. The latter exercise appealed to the older Malawians who treasured traditional values, and such people tended to support Banda's government even when it was repressive. He utilized the combination of modernity and tradition to benefit himself and his Malawi Congress Party. For example, he justified the replacement of the cabinet ministers who resigned in 1964 by less educated and older `yes men` by arguing that the younger Western-educated politicians were arrogant and not respectful of elders in the manner an African was expected to be. Such pronouncements resonated well in many rural and traditional areas of Malawi where Banda's own age was an assurance that the government was in the hands of an older and more experienced man who was also well versed in things Western. Here was an interplay of the material and spiritual domains.


By the early 1960s there was an assortment of publications relating to the history of Malawi. They consisted of memoirs or travel accounts of some of the Europeans who passed through or, worked, in the Lake Malawi region in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There were also some which attempted to present Malawian society in pre-colonial and colonial periods. The majority of such books and papers were by amateurs, although a few were by professional historians. This article has limited its assessment of these earlier writing to the works of Harry Johnston and to the contributions, of the Nyasaland Society, particularly their influence in the production of history in the 1960s. The article has shown the extent to which researchers and teachers relied on Johnston and some of the regular contributors to the Nyasaland Journal, as a new phase of historical writing began following the establishment of the University of Malawi in 1964. While incorporating new paradigms, many historians of Malawi continued to operate under the shadows of Johnston and Rangeley, the latter being the most consistent publisher in the Nyasaland Journal.

With some missionaries on whose works he depended, Johnston was responsible for defining the ethnic/`tribal' configuration of Malawi. His characterization of the Yao, the Ngoni and Tonga, for example, came to be adopted by almost everyone, including the indigenous peoples themselves. Rangeley and other commentators were to follow Johnston's delineations of ethnic groups; Banda was even less critical in his acceptance of Johnston. Throughout his presidency, Banda continued to view the Yao in Johnstonian-missionary terms. In many of his political speeches the Yao were identified with Islam and with resistance to western education and `modernization'. This attitude to the Yao was not helped by the fact that during and after the Cabinet Crisis of 1964, they appeared to ally themselves with Henry Chipembere, the leader of the rebelling ministers and also member of Parliament for Fort Johnston(Mangochi), a predominantly Yao district. The apparent support of the Yao for anti-Banda sentiments only seemed to confirm to him his belief that they had maintained their resistance to change.

Johnston's definition of ethnic groups was also reflected in some of the writings and lectures of members of the History Department, most of whom were not interested in pre-colonial history and thus tended not to question the `tribal' portrayal of Malawian societies.(79) This situation was. different from that in East Africa or, even in Zambia where, throughout the 1960s numerous scholars re-examined pre-colonial history, using mainly oral traditions.(80) In Malawi, only in the late 1960s did researchers begin to seriously query the classification of ethnic groups, and the leading scholars in this regard were Leroy Vail and Mathew Schoffeleers.(81)

As the article has also demonstrated, there were other forces which influenced the production of history in Malawi. The Cabinet Crisis of July 1964 led to more repressive measures which greatly affected freedom of expression which in turn had an impact on the teaching and writing of history. To consolidate Banda's power and to ensure that his version of Malawian culture and history prevailed, the machinery of the ruling Malawi Congress Party set out to control what could or could not be published or taught in schools and colleges. The production of history was further affected by the restriction of access to the National Archives, by the difficulty in obtaining clearance for field research and by a rigid application of the Censorship Act. Public history was continuously discussed in Malawi especially through radio and newspapers, and at national festivals such as Independence Day. However, as the media was tightly controlled by the government, discussion involving history and culture had to be on the lines approved by the governing party.

(1.) See, for example, Jonathan Newell, `"A moment of truth?" the church and political change in Malawi, 1992', Journal of Modern African Studies, 33 (1995), pp. 243-62; Deborah Kaspin, `The politics of ethnicity in Malawi's democratic transition', Journal of Modern African Studies, 33 (1995), pp. 595-620.

(2.) Lupenga Mphande, `Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda and the Malawi Writers Group: the (un)making of a cultural tradition', Research in African Literatures, 27 (1996), p. 81.

(3.) Peter G. Forster, `Culture, nationalism, and the invention of tradition in Malawi', Journal of Modern African Studies, 32 (1994), pp. 477-97.

(4.) Ten years after the university was established, Peter Turner, a former senior history teacher with some influence in colonial educational circles, continued to refer to African history as `tribal history', to be distinguished from `real history'. Turner joined the education methods section of the history department and was my colleague from 1974 to 1976.

(5.) Notably, Roland Oliver, The Missionary Factor in East African, (Longman, Harlow, 1951), and his Sir Harry Johnston and the Scramble for Africa (Faber, London, 1958); A. J. Hannah, The Beginnings of Nyasaland and North-eastern Rhodesia, 1859-1859 (Clarendon, Oxford, 1959), and The Story of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (London, 1960).

(6.) London, 1897.

(7.) For details of hundreds of Johnston's publications see James Casada, Sir Harry Hamilton Johnston: A Bibliographical Study (Basler, Afrika Bibliographien, 1997).

(8.) New York, 1923.

(9.) Report by Commissioner Johnston of the First Three Years' Administration of the Eastern Portion of British Central Africa, Cmd 7504, (1894), p. 23.

(10.) See John McCracken, Politics and Christianity in Malawi 1875-1940 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1977), pp. 157-58.

(11.) Johnston, British Central Africa, pp. 100-35; Report by Commissioner, Cmd 7504, p. 23; Hanna, The Beginnings of Nyasaland, pp. 186-88.

(12.) M.A. Vaughan, `Social and economic change in Southern Malawi: A study of rural communities in the Shire Highlands and Upper Shire Valley from the mid-nineteenth century to 1915', unpub. PhD thesis, University of London, 1981, pp. 60-61; D. C. Yadidi, `The British and the Yao Chiefs of Kasupe and Mangochi: their relations at the time of the introduction of colonial rule', Final Year Student Seminar Paper, Chancellor College, University of Malawi, 1975-76.

(13.) McCracken, Politics and Christianity, p. 171; Pachai, `Ngoni Politics and Diplomacy in Malawi: 1848-1904', in B. Pachai (ed.), The Early History of Malawi (Longman, Harlow, 1972), p. 202.

(14.) Report by Commissioner, Cmd 7504, p. 24; Johnston, British Central Africa, chapter X.

(15.) Report by Commissioner, Cmd, 7504, p. 24; Johnston was also impressed by the physical strength of the Yao, and by their capacity to endure long hours of labour; see his British Central Africa, p. 404.

(16.) Such as Duff Macdonald, Africana: Or the heart of heathen Africa (Simpkin Marshall, London, 1882); W. A. Elmslie, Among the Wild Ngoni (Oliphant and Ferrier, London, 1899); it is obvious from the footnotes and appendices of British Central Africa, that Johnston also relied heavily on Dr. Kerr Cross who had worked in the most northern Lake Nyasa area since the early 1880s. For the missionary attitudes towards Africans see H. A. C. Cairns, Prelude to Imperialism: British reactions to Central African society, 1840-1890 (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1965).

(17.) P.B. Rich, Race and Empire in British Politics (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986), pp. 18-20; also see G. W. Stocking, Victorian Anthropology (The Free Press, New York, 1987) pp. 238-73.

(18.) British Central Africa, pp. 410 and 414.

(19.) Deborah Root, Cannibal Culture: Art appropriation, & the commodification of difference (Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 1996), pp. 165-71.

(20.) Oliver, Sir Harry Johnston and the Scramble for Africa; Hannah, The Beginnings of Nyasaland and North-eastern Rhodesia; E. Stokes, `Malawi Political Systems and the Introduction of Colonial Rule 1891-1896', in E. Stokes and R. Brown (eds.), The Zambezian Past (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1966), pp. 352-75.

(21.) The aims of the Nyasaland Society were always printed on the inside of the journal.

(22.) The first Africans appear on the membership list in volume 4 of the Nyasaland Journal.

(23.) Zomba had the Gymkhana Club, in Limbe there was the Country Club and Blantyre had the Blatyre Sports Club. There were also clubs in Thyolo, Mulanje and Lilongwe.

(24.) See obituary in Nyasaland Journal, 11 (1958), p. 7.

(25.) Nyasaland Journal, 1 (1948), pp. 5-68; the whole number was devoted to Rangeley's article.

(26.) Nyasaland Journal, X (1958).

(27.) M. Chancok, Law, Custom and Social Order: the Colonial Experience in Malawi and Zambia (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1985), p. 27.

(28.) Chanock, Law, Custom and Social Order, p. 57.

(29.) Rangeley, `Notes on Chewa Tribal Law', p. 8.

(30.) For a discussion of law in anthropological studies see Chanock, Law, Custom and Social Order, pp. 1-47; J. Goody, The Expansive Movement: Anthropology in Britain and Africa, 1918-1970 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995), pp. 77-86, 104-8.

(31.) W.J.J. Rangeley, `The earliest inhabitants of Nyasaland', Nyasaland Journal, XVI (1963), pp. 35-42.

(32.) `Ancient iron workings on the Nyika Plataeu', Nyasaland Journal. XVIII (1960), pp. 18-20; for a later examination of Phoka history see H. B. K. Msiska, `Established on iron, undermined by iron: the creation and fragmentation of the Mwaphoka kingdom c1380-1810', Staff Student Seminar Paper, Chancellor College, University of Malawi, 1977-78.

(33.) See, for example, J. D. Clark, `A note on the pre-Bantu inhabitants of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland', Northern Rhodesia Journal, 11 (1950), pp. 42-52; H. H. Johnston, `A survey of the ethnography of Africa and the former racial and tribal migrations of that continent', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, LX111 (1913) pp. 391-92.

(34.) See, for example, M. G. Marwick, `History and tradition in east Central Africa through the eyes of the Northern Rhodesia Chewa', Journal of African History, IV (1963), p. 379, E. Chafulumila, Mbiri ya Amang'anja (Government Press, Zomba, 1948); stories about short people abound everywhere in Malawi.

(35.) See, for example, J. G. Pike, `The pre-colonial history of Malawi', Nyasaland Journal, KVIII (1965), pp. 22-54; Malawi: A Political and Economic History (Pall Mall, London, 1969), p. 32, George Nourse, `The name "Akafula"', Society of Malawi Journal, X111 (1967), pp. 17-22; the extreme example is Oliver Ransford, Livingstone's Lake: the drama of Nyasa Africa's inland sea (Thomas Y. Cromwell, New York, 1967).

(36.) `The Portuguese', Nyasaland Journal, XV11 (1964), pp. 42-71.

(37.) `The Arabs', Nyasaland Journal, XV1 (1963), pp. 11-25.

(38.) `The Angoni', Society of Malawi Journal, X1X (1966), pp. 62-86.

(39.) `The Yao', Nyasaland Journal, XV1 (1963), pp. 25-26.

(40.) See, for example, Pike, Malawi: A Political and Economic History, pp. 90-94.

(41.) See, for example, article by Mathew Schoffeleers in `The historical and political role of the Mbona cult among the Mang'anja in T. O. Ranger and I. N. Kimambo (eds.), The Historical Study of African Religion (Heinemann, London, 1972), pp. 73-94; `The Nyau societies and our present understanding', Society of Malawi Journal, 29 (1976); idem; `The Chisumpi and Mb'ona cults in Malawi: a comparative history', in M. Schoffeleers (ed.), Guardians of the Land: Essays on Central African territorial cults (Mambo Press, Gweru, 1979); Kings Phiri, `Chewa history in Central Malawi and the Use of Oral Tradition, 1600-1920', unpub. PhD thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1975. In the late 1970s, the History Department at the University of Malawi, made a major attempt to re-examine the history of the Southern Lake Malawi area, particularly the Shire Highlands. The project's team included Kings Phiri, Bertin Webster, Owen Kalinga, Megan Vaughan and some undergraduates majoring in history. Among other things the project concluded that the distinction between Yao, Lomwe and Mang'anja has tended to be too rigid, and that often the relationships between them is closer than was generally believed. See papers presented at the Staff-Student Seminar, Chancellor College, University of Malawi, in the 1978-1979 academic year, especially those by Webster, Newby Kumwembe, Dean Makuluni and P. Rashid.

(42.) Oxford University Press, 1958.

(43.) As a history major in the University of Malawi in the 1960s, I could clearly see the overwhelming influence of the Society of Malawi articles on the history of Malawi course.

(46.) Minutes of the Nyasaland Society between 1955 and 1966.

(47.) For a broader analysis of museums and representation see, S. Alpers, `Museums as a way of seeing', in I. Karp and St Lavine (eds.), Exhibiting Cultures: Poetics and politics of museum display (Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC, 1991), pp. 25-41 (in the same book see also articles by Baxandall, Boon, Kirshenbalt-Gimblett, and Hudson); G. W. Stocking, `Essays on museums and material culture' in G. W. Stockings, (ed.), Objects and Others: Essays on museums and material culture (Wisconsin University Press, Madison, 1985), pp. 3-14; in same book see J. Clifford, `Objects and selfs--an afterword', pp. 236-48.

(48.) For example, K. R. Robinson, Early Iron Age in Malawi: An Appraisal (Government Press, Zomba 1969); C. Baker, Johnston's Administration (Government Press, Zomba, 1970); P. H. Houson, A Short History of Karonga (Government Press, Zomba, 1972).

(49) As a history major in the University of Malawi in the 1960s, I could clearly see the overwhelming influence of the Society of Malawi articles on the history of Malawi course.

(50.) Longman, Harlow, 1966.

(51.) At first sold and distributed by the History Department as a mimeographed and bound copy; however, in 1971 CLAIM published and distributed it under that same title. Meantime, in 1970 the History Department organized an international conference on Malawi history and the papers were published; see B. Pachai (ed.), The Early History of Malawi (Longman, Harlow, 1972). The collection contains some revisionist papers, the most notable being those by Chanock and Vail.

(52.) For the life of Kamuzu Banda up to the Cabinet Crisis of 1964, see P. Short, Banda (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1974), pp. 1-72.

(53.) David Livingstone first set foot on the shores of lake Nyasa (Malawi) at noon on 16 September 1859; D. Livingstone and C. Livingstone, The Narratives of an Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries and the Discoveries of Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa, 1858-1864 (Harper & Brother, New York, 1866), p. 135.

(54.) G.A. Shepperson, `External forces in the development of African nationalism, with particular reference to British Central Africa', Phylon, 22 (1961), pp. 207-25.

(55.) See C. McMster, Malawi Foreign Policy and Development (St Martin's Press, New York, 1974), pp. 152-216; James Mayall, `The Malawi-Tanzania boundary dispute', Journal of Modern African Studies, 11, 4(1973), pp. 618-20.

(56.) For details of the Cabinet Crisis of 1964 see H. B. M. Chipembere, `Malawi in Crisis: 1964', Ufahamu, 2 (1970), pp. 1-2; W. M. K. Chiume, Kwacha: An autobiography (East African Publishing House, Nairobi, 1974), Short Banda, ch. 10; T. David Williams, Malawi: The politics of despair (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1978).

(57.) Short, Banda, pp. 83-84; C. Sanger, Central Africa Emergency (Heinemann, London, 1960), pp. 193-9; R. I. Rotberg, The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa: The making of Malawi and Zambia 1873-1964 (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1965), pp. 283-84.

(58.) G. Shepperson's Independent African: John Chilembwe and the origins, setting and significance of the Nyasaland native rising of 1915 (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1958), remains the definitive work on John Chilembwe. For the civil disobedience of 1953 see Rotberg, The Rise of Nationalism, pp. 259-321; Baker, Development Governor, pp. 311-21; for the events leading to the state of emergency see the Report of the Commission of Inquiry (Devlin Report), Cmnd, 814, (1959); Short, Banda, ch. 6; Sanger, Emergency in Central Africa, pp. 227-52.

(59.) The lyrics of popular Malawi Congress Party songs emphasised how `unpatriotic and evil' the rebels had been in revolting against Kamuzu Banda. In fact, the more anti-`rebel' the songs were the more approval they received from diehard party followers.

(60.) Bridglal Pachai's, History of the Nation (Longman, Harlow, 1973), which was first broadcast on radio over many months in Malawi and was to become a major school textbook, presents facts selectively and avoids issue which would have upset the ruling party. To this extent it too helped to perpetuate a version of history which had been orchestrated by the Malawi Congress Party since 1964.

(61.) One of his teachers was T. Cullen Young who published a number of works on Malawian history and culture, and was later to edit with Banda, Our African Way of Life (Lutterworth Press, London, 1946).

(62.) Forster, `Culture, nationalism and the invention of tradition in Malawi', pp. 483-92; Clearly Banda's command of the sources of African history was good but they were incredibly out of date. Melville J. Herskovits, as Banda had read him in the 1930s, was a favourite authority.

(63.) As a lecturer at the University of Malawi, I often read essays which used language which was very similar to Banda's; this was particularly the case in the months following one of the President's numerous speeches which dwelt on historical topics.

(64.) D. Hedges, `Notes on Malawi-Mozambique relations, 1961-1987', Journal of Southern African Society, 15 (1989), pp. 620-22; McMaster, Malawi--Foreign Policy and Development, pp. 125-216; R. D'A. Henderson, `Relations of neighbourliness--Malawi and Portugal, 1964-1974', Journal of Modern African Studies, 15, 3 (1977), p. 429.

(65.) Rotberg, The Rise of Nationalism, p. 189.

(66.) Short, Banda, pp. 33-66. See for example, Wiese C, Expedition in East-Central Africa, 1888-1891; a Report, edited and introduced by H. Langworthy, (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1983), pp. 236, 271-7, 268-9; Gamitto, King Kazembe, Marave, Cheva, Bisa, Bemba, Lunda, and Other Peoples of Southern Africa: Being the diary of the Portuguese Expedition to that Potentate in the Years 1831 and 1832, Vol. 1, trans. by Ian Cunnison (Junta de Investidacoes do Ultramar, Lisbon, 1960), pp. 41-62; H. W. Langworthy, `Chewa or Malawi political organization in the pre-colonial era', in Pachai (ed.), The Early History of Malawi, pp. 104-122; Cynthia A. Crosby, Historical Dictionary of Malawi (Scarecrow, London, 1993), p. 96.

(67.) Frantz Fanon, Toward the African Revolution (Monthly Review Press, New York, 1964), pp. 99-102.

(68.) Forster, `Culture, nationalism and the invention of tradition in Malawi', pp. 489-92.

(69.) At the 1973 Annual Malawi Congress Party Convention in Lilongwe, delegates were trapped into discussing the possibility of file return to Malawi of Manoa Chirwa, a former political activist and member of the Federal Parliament. Chirwa, a barrister, had fallen out of favour with the Malawi Congress Party and its predecessor, the Nyasaland African Congress. Since the early 1960s, he had lived in exile but as he became older he wanted to return home. Confident chiefs such as Mwase and Katumbi of Rumpi, both of whom happened to have been activist chiefs in the late colonial period, saw no problem with Chirwa's return. Kamuzu Banda and his close associates were not amused by sentiments which appeared to rehabilitate Chirwa and to present him as a prospective leader. The result was that all the chiefs who had spoken in favour of his return were expelled from the Party and deposed from office. Chirwa was not allowed to return.

(70.) One of the books banned earlier was Rotberg, The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa, which remains an authoritative treatment of the subject of African political aspirations in colonial Malawi. Others banned included, Short, Banda; Chiume, Kwacha.

(71.) Mphande, `Dr Kamuzu Banda and the Malawi Writers Group ...', pp. 81-82.

(72.) Forster makes the same point; see his `Culture, nationalism and the invention of tradition in Malawi', pp. 490-99.

(73.) The majority of the political detainees came from the Southern and Northern regions, that is, from non-Chewa regions which were also the home areas of the `rebel' ministers.

(74.) Short, Banda, pp. 273-74; Leroy Vail and Landeg White, `Tribalism in the political history of Malawi', in L. Wail (ed.), The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa (James Currey, London, 1989), p. 183.

(75.) For a general discussion of ethnicity in Malawi in the twentieth century see Vail and White, `Tribalism in the political history of Malawi', pp. 151-92.

(76.) Forster, `Culture, Nationalism and the invention of tradition in Malawi', p. 481; Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the origins and spread of nationalism (Verso, London, 1983), pp. 15 and 46-47.

(77.) Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and postcolonial histories (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1993), p. 6.

(78.) Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments, p. 11.

(79.) Pachai's Malawi: the History of the Nation is a prime example of the uncritical acceptance of Johnston.

(80.) See, for example, B. A. Ogot, A History of the Southern Luo, Vol. 1: Migration and Settlement, 1500-1900 (East Africa Publishing House, Nairobi, 1967); A. Roberts (ed.), Tanzania Before 1900 (East African Publishing House, Nairobi, 1968); I. N. Kimambo, A Political History of the Pare of Tanzania (East African Publishing House, Nairobi, 1969); M. Mainga, `The origins of the Lozi: from oral traditions', in E. Stokes and R. Brown (eds.), The Zambezian Past, pp. 238-47.

(81.) In 1968, Leroy Vail started working on the pre-colonial history of part of northern Malawi but his first publication directly related to this research came out in 1970; see his `Suggestions towards a re-interpreted Tumbuka history', in Pachai (ed.), The Early History of Malawi, pp. 148-67. Mathew Schoffeleers, who had not yet joined the teaching staff of the University of Malawi, was in the midst of his anthropological research on the Mang'anja and related peoples; he too was to be influential in setting the tone for a fresher approach to the pre-colonial history of the region.

The author is a professor in history at North Carolina State University. This article has benefitted from the comments of Leroy Vail, from the usual critical mind of my wife, Margaret, and the ideas of the anonymous readers.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Oxford University Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:African Affairs
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Oct 1, 1998

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters