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Lugard, Frederick John Dealtry

Lugard, Frederick John Dealtry

Frederick Lugard was a British military and colonial administrator. Lugard had a successful military career: he joined the army in 1878 and in 1905 became a colonel (with the local rank of brigadier general). He served in the Afghan war (1879–1880), in the Sudan campaign against Mahdist forces (1884–1885), and in Burma (1886–1887). In 1888 he was wounded in combat during an expedition organized by white settlers against Arab slave traders in the region of Lake Nyasa. One year later he was recruited by the Imperial British East Africa Company (I.B.E.A.), which employed him in geographical explorations and in further initiatives to crush slavery and the slave trade in the mainland territory under the jurisdiction of Zanzibar.

Lugard's fate changed when the Company dispatched him into Buganda (1890) as its representative. Lugard succeeded in urging Kabaka Mwanga to accept the I.B.E.A.'s protection. Lugard's memorandums and his addresses to various bodies did much to prevent the evacuation of Uganda. In the dispute between Christian missions, that beside the denominational differences involved Anglo-French rivalry, Lugard supported and armed the Protestant party against the pro-French Catholics headed by Mwanga, but throughout the whole affair he was anxious to reach a friendly settlement.

In 1894, the young but already notorious captain was sent by the Royal Niger Company to the future Nigeria. Even more than Uganda, Nigeria, especially northern and western Nigeria, with its well-established political infrastructure, proved to be an excellent setting for implementing Lugard's colonial design, known as indirect rule. The core idea was to utilize tribal chiefs as part of the colonial administration, while preserving their cultural identity and social separation. Colonialism as a governmental structure was welcomed and supported by westernized African elites, the so-called "collaborators," who essentially endorsed the new system brought by Europeans; for functions like justice, tax collection, and local public order the tribal chiefs were more suitable than anybody else because of their effective control of territory and inhabitants. Where necessary—for example in the Niger delta region, where stateless societies prevailed—the British administration did not hesitate to invent tribes, then create warrant chiefs in order to establish the model elaborated by Lugard—which in the meantime had become the dominant British approach in tropical Africa. Lugard combined administrative and military duties, overwhelming and subduing the African kingdoms and opposing rival European powers, mainly France and Germany. Between 1897 and 1899 he com-manded the West African Frontier Force.

In 1900, when the Royal Niger Company's charter expired—thus concluding the private phase of colonialism—Lugard was appointed high commissioner of the Northern Territories of Nigeria. The expansion of British forces in the region was challenged by the powerful sultan of Sokoto and other Fula monarchs, who were galvanized by Islam. After Lugard mounted a campaign against them, however, both the emir of Kano and the sultan of Sokoto were induced to accept British protectorate status. This eased the occupation of the entire region. At the end of Lugard's term in office, in 1906, the whole country was administered by the former rulers under the supervision of British residents.

After an interlude as governor of Hong Kong, in 1912 Lugard returned to Africa as governor of the Northern and Southern Provinces of Nigeria. There he achieved his greatest triumph as a colonial administrator, by unifying and amalgamating the two huge territories despite their profound differences. The operation was completed in a few years and on January 1, 1914, Lugard, by then Sir Frederick (and later Lord) Lugard, became governor-general of Nigeria, which he administered during World War I and up to 1919, when he retired.

In 1920 Lugard was named privy councilor. Between 1922 and 1936 he served as a member of the permanent mandates commission of the League of Nations, offering his great experience in colonial affairs to an international ambit. Lugard published a partly autobiographical book about the British colonial expansion (The Rise of Our East African Empire, 1893), issued remarkable reports on Northern Nigeria, and expounded his ideas on colonial administration, which were perhaps influenced by George Goldie's enterprises and arguments, in The Dual Mandate in Tropical Africa (1922). The core of the doctrine he espoused in this seminal book is summarized by his assertion that "Europe is in Africa for the mutual benefit of her own industrial classes, and of the native races in their progress to a higher plane; that the benefit can be made reciprocal and that it is the aim of the civilized administration to fulfil this dual mandate." To some extent, however, indirect rule was the evidence that colonialism, despite its disruption of traditional statehood, was not omnipotent and needed to rely on the same personnel and institutions that had defended in vain their own power and the freedom of their polities.

see also Dual Mandate, Africa; Indirect Rule, Africa; Warrant Chiefs, Africa.


Perham, Margery. Lugard: Master of Modern Africa. Vol. 1: The Years of Adventure, 1858–1898. London: Collins, 1956.

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