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The geographical, as opposed to political, term "Rhodesia" referred to a region generally comprising the areas that are today Zambia and Zimbabwe. From 1964 it only referred to the former Southern Rhodesia.
The name "Rhodesia" was derived from Cecil John Rhodes, the British empire-builder who was a guiding figure in British expansion north of the Limpopo River into south-central Africa. Rhodes pushed British influence into the region by obtaining mineral rights from local chiefs under questionable circumstances. After making a vast fortune in mining in South Africa, it was his ambition to extend the British Empire north, all the way to Cairo if possible. He sent European settlers into the territory that became Southern Rhodesia, and encouraged and financed British expeditions to bring areas north of the Zambezi into the British sphere of influence.
Rhodes suffered one of his few setbacks when, hearing of Belgian King Leopold II's designs on Katanga, he hastily sent the big game hunter Alfred Sharpe to obtain a treaty from its ruler, Msiri, producing the anomaly of the Congo Pedicle.
British missionaries had already established themselves in Nyasaland, and the British government's Colonial Office sent Harry Johnston to administer that territory as the British Central Africa Protectorate. Rhodes sent emissaries Joseph Thomson, Frank Elliott Lochner and Alfred Sharpe (again) to make treaties with chiefs in the area west of Nyasaland. After King Lewanika of the Barotse signed a treaty in 1890, the next year the British government placed Barotseland and land up to Nyasaland in the east and to Katanga and Lake Tanganyika in the north under the Charter of Rhodes' British South Africa Company (BSAC), administrated as two different units, North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia. The Colonial Office acted as a distant supervisor, with Harry Johnston in Nyasaland as their local representative. Rhodes financed much of the British presence in Nyasaland and worked closely with Johnston and his successors (Alfred Sharpe became one) so he could use them as emissaries and their Nyasaland troops as enforcers, particularly in North-Eastern Rhodesia. This territory and North-Western Rhodesia were considered by Rhodes and his colonisers to be a "tropical dependency" rather than a northward extension of white-settler-controlled southern Africa. In 1911 the BSAC merged the two territories as 'Northern Rhodesia'.
The BSAC had extended the Rhodesian Railways from Bulawayo through Livingstone to the Belgian Congo between 1904 and 1909 to serve the mines at Broken Hill and in Katanga. However, at that time the Company was not fully aware of the mineral riches of the Copperbelt and considered the principal economic benefit of Northern Rhodesia to be as a reservoir for migrant labour which could be called upon for Southern Rhodesia. In addition there was some cattle farming in Barotseland. Therefore Northern Rhodesia attracted little white settlement, in contrast to its southern neighbour.
British common law became the basis of the administration of Southern and Northern Rhodesia, unlike Roman Dutch law which applied in South Africa. In 1916, the British South Africa Company attempted to unify the administration of the two Rhodesian territories, but this foundered because of opposition from the Southern Rhodesian colonialists who were concerned about taking responsibility for a large undeveloped area and also about the Northern Rhodesian practice of employing Africans in administrative posts in lack of European settlers. The prospect of a split in opinion between the Company and the settlers led to the establishment of an Advisory Council through which settler opinion could be communicated.
As a result, a settlement was achieved by which Northern Rhodesia became a protectorate under the United Kingdom government, with its administrative machinery taken over by the Colonial Office, while the British South Africa Company retained extensive areas of freehold property and the protectorate's mineral rights. It was also agreed that half of the proceeds of land sales in the former North-Western Rhodesia would go to the Company. On 1 April, 1924, Herbert Stanley was appointed as Governor and Northern Rhodesia became an official Protectorate of the United Kingdom, with capital in Livingstone. The capital was moved to Lusaka in 1935.
One company, Rhodesia Concessions Ltd., was formed by Sir Edmund Davis and Alfred Chester Beatty. Beatty was largely responsible for discovering the copper resources located towards the northern border with the Belgian Congo. Copper was becoming much more valuable as more Copper was needed for electrical components and the motor industry. It only became apparent in 1925 how extensive the Copper deposits were; unlike the Copper located in the Congo, it was not difficult to extract profitably and investors were keen to provide the capital to set up Copper mines. Two partly interconnected companies came to control what was becoming known as the Copperbelt: the Rhodesian Anglo American Corporation, closely linked to the Witwatersrand gold industry and financed from Britain and South Africa, and the Roan Selection Trust, financed from the United States of America. A construction boom began.
The production of copper at the time was in the hands of an American cartel which sought to restrict supply in order to increase prices. While at first this encouraged investment, consumers sought alternative and cheaper materials and with the economic downturn, the price of copper crashed in 1931. An international agreement restricted output. This caused a catastrophe in Northern Rhodesia where many employees were sacked, and put an end to hopes which many Europeans had held of turning Northern Rhodesia into another white dominion like Southern Rhodesia. Many settlers took this opportunity to move back to Southern Rhodesia, while Africans returned to their farms.
Meanwhile the British South Africa Company sold its remaining Southern Rhodesian holdings to the Southern Rhodesian government in 1933 giving it the capital to invest in developing other mines. It negotiated an agreement between Rhodesian Railways and the copper mine companies for exclusive use, and used resources freed up to buy a major stake in the Anglo American Corporation. By the end of the 1930s, Northern Rhodesian copper mining was booming.
In contrast to Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia followed a policy of 'Indirect Rule' of African areas, where the administration attempted to build up self-governing institutions within the African community and to leave them to their own devices. In 1930, the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs Lord Passfield issued a memorandum which said that the interests of natives should be paramount in Northern Rhodesia and should, if they came into conflict, take precedence over those of the settlers. This aroused considerable opposition to the United Kingdom government among the settlers.
Africans working in the copper mines were outraged when, in 1935, the rates of the poll tax charged in the Copperbelt were increased retrospectively because of a large number of defaulters. Although the Provincial Commissioners had been told about the change on January 11, it was not until May 20 that the Native Tax Amendment Ordinance was signed, with rates implemented as of the previous January 1. This decision provoked an all out Copperbelt strike which broke out from May 22 to May 25 in three of the four mines in the area, namely Mufulira, Nkana and Roan Antelope. Troops had to be sent to Nkana to restore order. When, on May 29, police in Luanshya attempted to disperse a group of Africans, violence erupted and six Africans were shot dead. The loss of life shocked both sides and the strike was suspended while a Commission of Inquiry was set up. It found that the way the increases were announced was the key factor, and if they had been introduced calmly, they would have been accepted.
One effect of the strike was the establishment of tribal elders' advisory councils for Africans across the Copperbelt, following a system introduced at the Roan Antelope mine. These councils acted as minor courts, referring other matters to the mine compound manager or district organiser. Native courts operated outside the urban areas and eventually these were introduced to the towns. Mufulira was the first, in 1938, and by the end of 1940 they existed in Kitwe, Luanshya, Ndola and Chingola on the Copperbelt, Lusaka and Broken Hill in the centre of the country, and Livingstone on the border with Southern Rhodesia. Simultaneously, African Urban Advisory Councils were established in the main Copperbelt towns. Relations between Africans and Europeans were often strained.
The Royal Commission reported in March 1939, and though it accepted amalgamation in principle, it rejected it for immediate implementation. The Northern Rhodesian white population regarded the report as a severe disappointment, but before they had the opportunity to make a serious response, the outbreak of World War II fundamentally changed the economic and political situation. Northern Rhodesian Copper became a vital resource in winning the war.
When the European copper miners realised their importance, they went on a wildcat strike demanding that basic pay be raised by 2s. per shift with a war bonus. Realising that they might be sacked and replaced with African workers who were paid less, they also demanded a closed shop. The strikers' demands were largely conceded with an agreement to consult the miners' union on any "dilution of labour", and to revert to pre-war conditions after the war.
The African miners got to hear of the settlement unofficially and rumours that wage increases of £4 per day circulated; despite increasing African bonus payments, the Africans in Nkana mine went on strike. When many turned up to collect their pay for work before going on strike, the diehard strikers assumed they were reporting for work and a confrontation began which quickly escalated into a riot in which troops opened fire. Thirteen were killed. Another Commission of Inquiry found that conditions at Nkana and Mufulira had little changed from 1935, although at Nchanga and Roan Antelope no strike had happened.
There was an election in 1941. Roy Welensky, a railway trade union leader who had been elected in 1938, set up the Northern Rhodesian Labour Party as a party favouring amalgamation. All its five candidates were elected. This development was spotted in London where Labour Party MPs were concerned that the demand, if granted, would diminish the position of the Africans of Northern Rhodesia.
Later in the war, the British government's Ministry of Supply entered into agreements with the Northern Rhodesian and Canadian copper mines to supply all the copper needed by the armed forces for set prices. This removed free competition and therefore kept prices down; as British companies, the main copper producers were also subject to the Excess Profits Tax. However they did have a guaranteed market, and in 1943 the Ministry of Supply paid half of the cost of an expansion programme planned for the Nchanga mine.
The war years had seen the establishment of African Regional Councils formed from delegates of the African Urban Advisory Councils, and the regional councils together met as the African Representative Council. From 1948, the African Representative Council was allowed to elect two Africans to the Legislative Council which governed the colony. The next year, African mineworkers formed a trade union.
The Congress under Godwin Lewanika became a political force and developed a radical policy. In 1952 Lewanika was succeeded by Harry Nkumbula, a schoolteacher from Kitwe who was such a radical figure that many Chiefs withdrew their support from the Congress. These developments among the Africans caused concern among the 50,000 white Northern Rhodesians who feared being deposed. The white Northern Rhodesians also felt that the Africans, who were led by clerks and schoolteachers, lacked any skills in the complex business of governing.
However, the Africans did have some interests in common with the Europeans, including on the issue of trade union organisation. Roy Welensky also led a move in the Legislative Council to restrict the British South Africa Company's mineral rights which garnered African support; the Company agreed in 1949 to assign 20% of its revenues to the Government, and to transfer all its remaining rights in 1986.
As part of their attempts to hold off African control, the idea of federation with Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland was again suggested. The United Kingdom government, although now run by the Labour Party, was becoming favourable as a way of more logically running the remaining British Empire and of relieving the burden of running loss-making colonies like Nyasaland.
Accordingly in 1949 a conference was held at Victoria Falls which produced a workable federal scheme. After revisions and a further draft by civil servants in 1951, agreement was eventually reached and following a successful referendum in Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia joined the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland when it was created.
In 1929 the number of unofficial members was increased to seven. 1938 saw the first acknowledgement of the need to represent the opinions of Africans, as a space for one nominated unofficial member was made. This member replaced one of the nominated officials, so that the official and unofficial members each numbered eight. In 1941 one additional member was added to both the nominated officials and the elected unofficials, for a total of ten unofficials (nine elected) and nine nominated officials.
An Order-in-Council coming into effect on December 31, 1953 provided for a new Legislative Council to consist of a Speaker ex officio, eight nominated officials, twelve elected unofficials, four African unofficial members nominated by the Governor on the advice the African Representative Council, and two nominated unofficial members representing the interests of Africans. The nominated officials were identified as the Chief Secretary, Attorney General, Financial Secretary, and Secretary for Native Affairs, and four others.
The 22 elected members were organised in such a way as to ensure that there were eight African and 14 Europeans. The electoral roll was divided into 'General' and 'Special' with Special voters having much lower financial requirements than General voters, so that the majority of Special voters were Africans (the nationality requirement had been varied so that British Protected Persons were eligible to vote). In the towns in which a majority of Europeans lived, there were twelve constituencies; special voters could have no more than one third of the influence on the total.
In the rural areas where most Africans lived, six special constituencies were drawn. Both general and special voters participated in the elections and their votes counted for equal weight, although the majority of voters were Africans. In the special constituency areas, there were two composite 'Reserved European seats', in which special voters were restricted to one third of the influence. There were also two 'Reserved African seats' in the areas of the ordinary constituencies, although all votes counted in full.
Criminal trials for treason, murder and manslaughter, or attempts and conspiracies to commit them, were reserved for the High Court. Civil matters relating to constitutional issues, wills and marriages were also restricted to the High Court.
Source: Whitaker's Almanack
Northern Rhodesia resumed issuing its own stamps on December 1, 1963, with a definitive series all featuring the same design, the colony's coat of arms and a three-quarter portrait of the Queen. These were superseded by issues by Zambia in the following year.
Nearly all of the stamps of Northern Rhodesia are inexpensively available, with the exception of the 7s6d and 20s of 1925, which are now worth about US$100.