The British Empire Library

The Northern Rhodesian Record and A history of the Northern Rhodesia Police

by Terence D. Carter

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by R. J. Barkley (Northern Rhodesia Police 1949-65)
Some time ago several senior members of the Administration of Northern Rhodesia, including the late Sir Glyn Jones, decided that something should be written to eounter the denigration of the Colonial Serviee by the media in general and the BBC in particular, though it must be said that it is now possible to detect slightly more favourable comment than there used to be.

The result was the Northern Rhodesia Record, which traces the sixty odd years of development of that colony from nothing to the viable and prosperous state that became Zambia in 1964.

To ensure that the book gives a comprehensive cover of the work of government, offieers from several major departments have contributed ehapters in addition to the major contribution from members of the Provincial Administration, which did after all constitute the framework on which the civil service of the territory was built. The departments covered are Education, Agriculture, Forestry, Medical and Game & Tsetse Control.

The Reeord starts with an aecount of the territory as the first administrators found it, little changed from the days of Livingstone. At the turn of the century the slave trade was still active, the last trader being recorded as shot in 1907, the population sickly and sparse and up-to-date forms of communieation non-existent. The representatives of government, then the British South Africa Company, were few but by 1924 after only a quarter of a century they could hand over to the Colonial Office the elementary basis on which future administrators could build a modern state. At that time in a country of nearly 300,000 square miles the population, though increased, was still less than a million.

The Record goes on to tell of the life and work of government in rural areas, the picture being one of concern by tbe administrators for the people under their control. The doctrine of indirect rule is well presented to show that as far as possible the administration in the rural areas worked through the traditional African hierarchy, something particularly apparent when it came to dealing with Barotseland which was virtually a state within a state.

At the end of the book there is a well-researched history of the Northern Rhodesia Police by Col. T. M. Wright, himself an ex-police officer. In some ways the book, being a collection of contributions, lacks cohesion and suffers a little from unnecessary repetition. That apart, it gives a fair and interesting picture of the work of the Colonial Service in Northern Rhodesia and presents the case that the objective of the Service was the welfare of the territory in order to bring it up to the point where it could be taken over by the descendants of the tribes living there before the European arrived on the scene. H owever, it cannot be emphasised too strongly that without the colonial era there would have been precious few descendants and certainly no viable state to become the Republic of Zambia and this too can be gleaned from the record.

The final chapter ‘Conclusions’ sets out in a masterly fashion all that the Record is trying to convey and leaves one with much on which to ponder.

British Empire Book
Terence D. Carter
University of Portsmouth