central africa

British Central Africa Protectorate

The British Central Africa Protectorate existed in the area of present-day Malawi between 1891 and 1907.

The Shire Highlands south of Lake Nyasa and the lands west of the lake had been of interest to the British since they were first explored by David Livingstone in the 1850s, and commercial interests began moving in during the 1880s. In 1889, the Anglo-Portuguese Crisis erupted over control of the area, and Britain declared a Shire Highlands Protectorate, extending it to a Nyasaland Districts Protectorate in 1891, and renaming to British Central Africa Protectorate in 1893.

Sir Henry Hamilton Johnston was commissioner from 1 February 1891 to 16 April 1896. In addition to establishing the administration and police force, he granted land to plantation farmers, and mining companies, gradually dispossessing the natives, who were not familiar with the legal process. Coffee became the chief cash crop.

Blantyre was the economic and cultural centre of the protectorate, while Zomba in the Highlands was the governor's residence and administrative centre.

Sir Alfred Sharpe took over as commissioner in 1896, serving until 1 April 1910, with Francis Barrow Pearce and William Henry Manning as acting commissioner for a period in 1907 and 1908.

The protectorate was changed to the Nyasaland Protectorate on 6 July 1907.

Postage stamps and postal history of British Central Africa

Main article at Postage stamps and postal history of British Central Africa.


  • Fred J. Melville, British Central Africa
  • De Robeck, A Pictorial Essay of the 1898 Provisional of British Central Africa - Nyasaland
  • Henry Hamilton Johnston, British Central Africa: An Attempt to Give Some Account of a Portion of the Territories Under British Influence North of the Zambesi (1898)

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