Lugard and Indirect Rule



Lugard: . Perhaps most famous for his work in pre-Word War 1 and the inter-war period, he was a remakable man who wrote some classics on Nigeria and on East Africa. It was he who defined the character of the Dual Mandate idea and who has an amazingly comprehensive grip on almost all aspects of colonial rule. His voluminous diaries edited by Margery Perham - a formidable Africanist in her own right - are testimony to his significance.

I attach some articles by which I wish you to not only to pay attention to the language and construction of an 'Empire discourse' but also to consider the merits of Lugard's positon vis-a-vis running British policy. What I am wanting to encourage you to do, is to avoid the every easily bought knee-jerk reaction of dismissing the  Empire/Colonialism as just simply 'racist'. That is ok for pub talk or Guardian readers but perhaps we can do better than that.


"Let it be admitted at the outset that European brains, capital, and energy have not been, and never will be, expended in developing the resources of Africa from motives of pure philanthropy ; 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 and desire of civilised administration to fulfil this dual mandate"

from Lugard's 'The Dual Mndate"  (p.617)

"As Roman imperialism laid the foundations of modern civilisation, and led the wild barbarians of these islands along the path of progress, so in Africa to-day we are repaying the debt, and bringing to the dark places of the earth, the abode of barbarism and cruelty, the torch of culture and progress, while ministering to the material needs of our own civilisation."
ibid. p. 618

But from a more modern view:
"The British Empire in Africa went through several distinct phases. From the heyday of the Atlantic slave trade to the mid-19th century, the British imperial presence was limited to a small handful of trading forts on the West African coast, the seizure of the Cape Colony from the Dutch, and a protectorate over the Sultanate of Zanzibar. Britain acquired its substantial African holdings during the era of “new imperialism” of the late 19th century, when it played a substantial role in the European conquest and partition of the continent. While British Africa may have appeared ordered and coherent from London, where a pinkish red usually marked its component territories on maps of the empire, it was in fact a highly diverse and varied entity. Empires, by their very nature, embody and institutionalize difference. Moreover, they are hierarchical institutions that appear quite different from the perspective of the metropole, a colonial capital, and local subject communities. In the decades before the First World War, British Africa included protectorates over theoretically sovereign states, a handful of West African coastal enclaves with Crown Colony status, settler colonies, the self-governing dominion of South Africa, and territories governed by anachronistic charter companies that belonged to an earlier imperial era. While there were small but politically influential communities of European descent in eastern, central, and southern Africa, the vast majority of Britain’s subjects in Africa were Africans. According to the widely accepted stereotypes of the new imperialism, Britain had a moral responsibility to govern these subject peoples because they were at a less advanced stage of human development. This doctrine of trusteeship became harder to justify as social Darwinism went out of fashion over the course of the 20th century, and it proved incompatible with institutionalized racial discrimination in the settler colonies and policies that privileged British economic interests. These realities explain why much of the literature on British Africa appears contradictory, for historians writing about imperial topics are often writing about very different things. The substantial diversity and variety in the form and function of British rule has made it difficult for historians to draw broad conclusions about Britain’s African empire."





Michael Crowder on British and French Rule






How does he argue his case?



Let us look at the article 'Native Policy in East Africa' (NP)  and 'White man's task in Tropical Africa' (WM)


he quickly appeals to relativism of governance (para 1)


but oddly as a kind of admission of failure by Western nations (WW1) - a sort of 'so we can't talk' argument....but...


then appeals to civilised reining in of Slavery and forced labour


In WM he points to industrial revolution and the demand for imports from guess where? But still 'trustees for civilisation'


The DualMandate!


The african as part of a world market (this goes against the Wallerstein argument we looked at i.e. incorporation into markets is a paradigm shift of intensification in the late 19th C onwards (p.59)


But the question of civilisation within a market and the changes tht are needed in the lives of  the people - does it improve their lioves - see top of p. 60 (WM)



Do we see however much of Lugard's later essays marked with doubts as to the proper behaviour of the western powers?


See end of 2nd para in NP and p. 66 on how many of the signatories will fully implement the spirit of the convention


L's key concerns:


form of govt best adapted to the geography and the peoples


Africans and white settlers rels


Local admin.


Other factors fall from these three issues. (p.68)


And then the probs of governance - again indicting doubts by L about the imposition of a British way of life on Africa (p.69)


Foreign-ness of govt instits and elections etc.


p.71 - re: white man as judge and jury over what goes on


But on  p. 72 - really brings out the diff between French and British policy in regard of education and pol representation issues.





F and GB as similar?


Nevertheless there were such fundamental differences between the French and British systems that, even if both did make use of ' chiefs ', it is not possible to place the French system of native administration in the same category as British Indirect Rule. It is true that both powers had little alternative to the use of existing political authorities as a means of governing their vast African empires, and in most cases these authorities were headed by chiefs. What is important is the very different way in which these authorities were used. The nature of the position and power of the chief in the two systems was totally different and, as a corollary, so were the relations between the chief and the political officer, who was inspired in each case by very different ideals.


The relation between the British political officer and the chief was in general that of an adviser who only in extreme circumstances interfered with the chief and the native authority under him.



Though indirect rule reposed primarily on a chief as executive, its aim was not to preserve the institution of chieftaincy as such, but to encourage local self-govern-ment through indigenous political institutions, whether these were headed by a single executive authority, or by a council of elders.' In Northern Nigeria a policy of minimal interference with the chiefs and their traditional forms of government was pursued. But Lugard himself had insisted on a reform of the indigenous taxation system and of the administration of native justice when he was Governor of Northern Nigeria and believed that, while the colonial government should repose on the chiefs, their administration should be progressively modernized



...many emirs and chiefs ruled as ' sole native authorities ', a position which gave them for practical purposes more power than they had in pre-colonial days, where they were either subject to control by a council or liable to deposition if they became too unpopular  (198)



What do we make of the distribution of power between administrators and local chiefs etc?



in practice, the goal of ruling through traditional political units on whom local self-government could be devolved was maintained, and after much trial and error a system of democratically elected councils was formulated as most closely corresponding to the traditional methods of delegating authority.



The British system depended on the advisory relationship between the political officer and the native authority, usually a chief, heading a local government unit that corresponded to a pre-colonial political unit. The French system placed the chief in an entirely subordinate role to the political officer.



French system:


The French system placed the chief in an entirely subordinate role to the political officer. M. Deschamps alludes only briefly to the role of the French political officer towards the end of his article, where he hints at the nature of his status as a roi paternel or roi absolu. But it is important to stress that the chief in relation to the French political officer was a mere agent of the central colonial government with clearly defined duties and powers. He did not head a local government unit, nor did the area which he administered on behalf of the govern-ment necessarily correspond to a pre-colonial political unit. In the interests ot conformity the French divided the country up administratively into cantons which frequently cut across pre-colonial political boundaries. Chiefs did not remain chiefs of their old political units but of the new cantons, though sometimes the two coincided.




Since the chiefs did not, except in rare cases, represent traditional authority and, since they were the agents of the colonial power for carrying out its more unpopular measures, such as collecting taxes and recruiting for labour, they were resented in most parts of French West Africa.



just before the independence of Gui-nea, Sekou Toure (then Vice-President du Conseil) decided to do away with chiefs, the operation was effected with remarkably little protest from either the indigenous population or from the French administration that had made use of them. Of the twenty-two Commandants de Cercle, still mostly French, called to Conakry to discuss the proposed removal of the chiefs (from 25 to 27 July) only four felt that the chefs de canton had a useful role to fulfil in the territory, and nearly all confirmed that the chiefs no longer possessed political traditional authority and had become mere agents of the administration.





(i) Assimilation as the dominant colonial policy of France, i.e. its dominant and continuing characteristics; (2) Assimilation as the policy abandoned in favour of association; (3) Assimilation as opposed to autonomy, i.e. integration versus devolution; (4) Assimilation as a legalistic definition, i.e. representation in the mother of parliaments; (5) Assimilation as civilization; (6) Assimilation as representing racial equality as against British tendency to the colour bar; (7) Assimilation as a highly centralized form of direct rule of colonies.



Post assimilationist policies (late 50s



"the politique d'association that succeeded it was certainly not that advocated by Jules Harmand, whereby the colonial power would respect the manners, customs, and religion of the natives and follow a policy of mutual assistance rather than exploita-tion. Rather it was one in which, while recognition was given to the impracticability of applying a full-scale policy of assimilation to African societies, a number of assi-milationist characteristics were retained. First, the goal of creating French citizens out of Africans was not abandoned; it was just made more distant and much more difficult of achievement. Second, there was a high degree of administrative centraliza-tion on the mother country, which was not compatible with a true politique d'association."


"The British, on the other hand, in the twenties and thirties actively dis-couraged the formation of a class of Europeanized Africans, particularly at the level of the central colonial administration.... Lucy Mair writing in 19362 about the status of the educated African in the French colonies remarked that: ' The assumption which governs the whole attitude of France towards native development is that French civilisation is necessarily the best and need only be presented to the intelligent African for him to adopt it. Once he has done so, no avenue is to be closed to him. If he proves himself capable of assimilating French education, he may enter any profession, may rise to the dignity of Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and will be received as an equal..." (203)




as Albert Sarraut insisted in his La Mise en valeur de nos colonies (Paris, I923)1 the colonies should provide assistance to France in the form of raw materials for her industry, and, in addition to this, troops in time of war, in return for which the African would benefit from French civilization. Colonial policy in the inter-war period was to be ' a doctrine of colonisation starting from a conception of power or profit for the metropolis, but instinctively impregnated with altruism'.



It was the educated African before whom he felt uneasy. Indeed many political officers openly expressed their contempt for the ' savvy boy' or' trousered African '. In Nigeria, even as late as I954, one could hear such epithets used by Northern political officers about Southern politicians. The African's place was in the Emir's court, not at Lincoln's Inn or Oxford. The French political officer, on the other hand, was able to establish relationships with the educated African.




the differences between the French and British systems of admi-nistration in Africa were not only differences in degree but in kind. Both may have used chiefs, but the position of the chief in each system was radically different. The basis for these differences may be sought in the fact that though assimilation as an official policy was abandoned after the early experiment in Senegal, it continued to be a most important inspiration both for the politiqued 'association and for the political officer charged with carrying it out.