The British Empire 
                                                              1815-1914

Frederick Lugard

Clive of India and the Warren Hastings of Africa

Hailed by Sir Harry Johnstone as the Clive of India and the Warren Hastings of Africa,  Frederick Lugard was an imperial hero who captivated the public's imagination in the 1890s and early years of the 20th century. Born in Madras whilst his father was serving as an army chaplain for the East India Company Lugard went on to be a soldier in the Indian army, an explorer in east Africa, a treaty maker in east Africa and Nigeria, a High Commissioner in Nigeria and a Governor in Hong Kong. At the same time and during his retirement from public service he was to write books about the administration of empire and give lectures and talks about the benefits of empire. He was also married to Flora Shaw, a celebrated writer and first female editor for a national paper - as Colonial correspondent  for the Times.  If anyone is deserving of the tile of 'empire maker' it is he.



From India to England and a succession of poor schools

Lugard was born  in 1858 in Madras, whilst his father was chaplain at the little timber vaulted church in the East India Company's compound. His mother was his father's third wife and over the next few years she was constantly pregnant bearing five children in quick succession. With her health worsening Mary returned to England with her children but despite this her fragile health led to her death in 1865. Her husband returned from India full of grief. The family moved from place to place with Frederick going to a number of prep schools until at 13 he entered Rossall ,a Church of England school for boys where he was badly bullied and constantly miserable. At seventeen a new Headmaster arrived and changed the school completely putting more emphasis on sport and academic achievement. Frederick benefited from this change of emphasis and gained prizes in Divinity and History. At this point Frederick was taken  in hand by his uncles who prepared him for the Sandhurst entrance examination in which he came 6th out of 1000. He was at Sandhurst for eight weeks after which he was sent to the North West frontier  of India where he quickly adapted to army life. He picked up Hindustani and Urdu quickly and revelled in army life, enjoying the mess dinners, polo, horse racing, tiger hunting, pig sticking and even the drill.


In love

In 1885 he was sent to the Sudan which was being evacuated as a result of the Mahdist uprising. Lugard was involved in some heavy fighting and in one skirmish on March 23rd 315 British soldiers died in hand to hand fighting with Lugard injuring his shoulder. He returned to base in Lucknow, India where he met and fell in love with a beautiful divorcee, Frances Gambier. The following year, 1887, Frederick was posted to Burma and it was whilst here that he heard that Frances lay dying from a carriage accident. Frederick  returned to Lucknow but Frances had left for England.  Frederick decided to pursue Frances so he left for London where he found that she had taken a lover. Frederick was devastated and decided to join the London Fire Service throwing himself into his work with a careless abandon. He then applied for sick leave from the army and with his pension of £48 took off for east Africa where he ended up in Mozambique. He landed a job with the  African Lakes Company, one of the private chartered companies that were carving up Africa at the time, being given the task of leading an expedition against Arab slave traders that were operating around Lake Nyasa and launching attacks on outposts of the African Lakes Company.


An adventurer in Africa

He initially travelled alone through thick jungle and crocodile infested rivers until he reached Blantyre where he took command of a force which he then trained  to attack a nearby Arab  stockade. Three made attempts were made over the following three years to take the Arab base but all failed. He returned to England in 1889 just as the African Lakes Company was being bought by Cecil Rhodes who had already that year been given a charter for his own private company , the British South Africa Company. There was no place for a maverick in Rhodes' company so Lugard was again looking for new ventures. He dearly wanted to get a position in the Colonial Service but instead took a position with William Mackinnon's Imperial British East Company - his job was to explore a new route to the interior of east Africa. Three months into his venture Mackinnon was to change his assignment. Now he was to proceed to the newly established king of the Buganda, the Mwanga, to bring peace to an area that was beset with religious strife. Mwanga was beset by representatives from Germany, France and the Arab world and by inter-religious violence between Catholics, Protestants  and Muslims. Arriving in Kampala with just three Europeans and a battered Maxim gun, Lugard used the sheer force of his personality to persuade Mwanga to sign an agreement. He sent word back to the coast but the reply took a year to arrive and when it came that was no response to his demands for a British Resident and 500 troops. Lugard was ordered to get a firm treaty signed and return to Mombasa. The violence during this year got worse between the religious groups with the French mission being attacked by Protestants with a number of French people killed.


Accused of war crimes

Once Lugard had pacified the area he left Kampala but once he arrived back in England in 1892 he found that he was being accused of war crimes and attacks on the French. A Committee of Inquiry was set up and Lugard determined to defend his reputation. He went on a speaking tour of the country and wrote numerous letters to papers and wrote a book, 'The Rise of Our East African Empire' in which he wrote of the source of the Nile, the geopolitical importance of the area as a gateway to Sudan and Egypt, and the humanitarian need to take responsibility for the area. He managed to persuade the government to declare Uganda a British Protectorate in 1894 by which time he was being regarded as a British hero for his exploits. He had met Flora Shaw, who was Colonial editor on the Times and she took up his cause. The following year,1895,Chamberlain the new Colonial Secretary asked to see Lugard to brief him for a parliamentary debate on Africa.

It was not long before Lugard was back in Africa, this time working for Goldie's Royal Niger Company negotiating a treaty with the ruler of Burgu in northern Nigeria. Getting to the very north of this inhospitable and inaccessible land was a feat in itself but Lugard was successful. His next contract was with the British West Chartered Company to explore a new mineral concession.


An army commander in the Niger region

In 1897 Chamberlain asked Lugard to proceed to the Niger delta with a force of 2,000-3,000 to occupy the Nigerian interior to prevent any French advance into the area. Having achieved this he was to be rewarded with the kind of job he had craved for - he was to become Commissioner of northern Nigeria following the buy out by the government of Goldie's Royal Niger Company's charter. He began  work on January 1st 1900.


Marriage to Flora and commissioner of northern Nigeria

t was during his first leave from Nigeria in 1901 that Lugard and Flora agree to marry -the marriage would take place in Funchal, Madeira, on their way back to Nigeria. Their destination in Nigeria was Zungeru, an isolated post on the confluence of two rivers, the hottest and most humid place in NIgeria. He had fifty young British men to help him administer 300,000 square miles of the country. His bungalow was infested with puff adders and hyenas and his doctor ordered him not be outside during the daytime as he was already beginning to feel the effects of years spent in malarial jungle.


Indirect rule

To administer his territory Lugard drew upon his experience of India and the system of using British residents to work alongside local rulers. Treaties were agreed with rulers which stated the relationship between ruler and resident and making clear that the British resident had the last word. Lugard was concerned to keep local rulers in place as they had the resources to maintain law and order and as long as they governed to maintain law and order and a free flow of trade they were left alone, although alongside them were British residents who were there to advise and ensure that the wishes of Lugard were adhered to. These young men were selected from public schools and recently out of Oxford and Cambridge  who were tough, resourceful, independent, decisive and above all men of action.


Dealing with rebellious local rulers

the far north of Nigeria there were powerful rulers who resented the presence of the British and soon after Lugard returned to Nigeria he had to act to deal with these rulers, the Sultan of Sokoto and the Emir of Kano, following a series of murders including the murders of a number of British residents. Lugard despatched a force of 800 men with four guns and four maxims guns. As the force entered outlying towns within the territory of the Emir, they fired a shell into the first town and following its quick surrender succeeding towns surrendered as quickly. When they arrived at Kano, a beautiful city with surrounding walls thirteen miles long with 50 foot walls, they charged easily through the first gate and then set up their Maxim guns in an open space they arrived at. When the Emir's garrison confronted them the Maxims were unleashed leaving 1200 dead in just a few minutes. The city surrendered whereupon dungeons with stinking human corpses and horrible methods of torture and methods of execution were discovered. A treaty was negotiated with the Emir by which he retained all his powers over his people subject to a veto held by the High Commissioner. Two weeks later following a march on Sokoto, the Sultan also succumbed to the threat of the Maxim, signing a similar treaty.


The sacking of Satiru

In 1903 Lugard and Flora returned to England and spent six months in their flat in Chelsea and their little cottage in Abinger. They returned in November for a thirteen month tour during which Lugard had to deal with an Islamist uprising in Satiru, south of Sokoto.  Lugard had few available troops but having determined whether he had the support of the Sultan (he had) , a force was put together made up of 600 men that Lugard put together with a force from the Sultan. The combined force marched on Satiru to confront the 200 rebels armed with just hoes and axes. Virtually the whole rebel force was killed after which the troops plundered the town killing civilians as they went. The Sultan then ordered the town razed to the ground. When the news reached London there was an outcry and demand for Lugard's recall. At the time Churchill was dealing with the execution by the Natal government of twelve leaders of a black rebellion, and the two pieces of news created a storm of protest about the treatment of native people.


Hong Kong

Lugard considered retirement but in the event accepted the post of Governor-General of Hong Kong. Frederick and Flora settled into Government House but just a year after settling in, Flora took ill and  returned to England. Frederick threw himself into improving educational provision on the colony and in particular founded the university. The government was considering unifying the two parts of Nigeria at this time and approached Lugard about the possibility of him becoming the Governor-General of a united Nigeria.


A united Nigeria

Lugard accepted the offer of returning to Nigeria and on 1st January 1914 the new Nigeria came in to being. He remained until the end of the war when he returned to Flora at Abinger to a life of retirement from colonial service but to a life of writing for magazines and newspapers, speaking, on the lecture circuit, and writing a book, 'The Dual Mandate'  in which he argued that the British Empire was a force for good.


Arguing for ‘Indirect Rule’

Lugard didn't argue that the empire was a philanthropic project but did say the benefits of empire were mutual. The British got the benefits of trade, investments, and the possession of strategic bases whilst local people got law and order, the ending of the slave trade, and wars, an infrastructure of roads and bridges as well as the clearing of swamps and the irrigation of deserts. In his writings and talks Lugard focused on the virtue of 'Indirect Rule'. He claimed that native people were nowhere near being able to govern themselves and that it would be decades before Nigerians would be ready for democracy particularly as most of Europe was making a mess of democracy.


Empire building had a double motive for Lugard, hence the Dual Mandate. One motive was to make money for the metropolitan power whilst another motive for empire was to develop colonies for the benefit of the local inhabitants. He maintained that' Let it be admitted at the outset that European brains, capital energy have not been and never will be expended in developing  the resources of Africa for the benefit from motives of pure philanthropy; that Europe is in Africa for the benefit of her own industrial classes and of the native races in their progress to a higher place.' Lugards's  faith in 'Indirect Rule' though was pragmatic - he at no time as Commissioner in Nigeria had the resources to maintain law and order himself. As a former soldier he valued law, order and stability above all else and the only people who could maintain the stability he valued were the local rulers. He may have entrenched the power of local authoritarian chiefs who were brutal and repressive but he had no alternative.  Democracy would take centuries to develop and the only way whereby a few British civil servants could maintain law and order was by ruling through local leaders.


Lugard spent much of his retirement in arguing the case of Indirect rule although when Flora died in 1929 Frederick was heartbroken. He never recovered from Flora's loss and kept her room just as it was when she was alive until his own death in 1945.



The Northern and Southern parts of Nigeria were united in 1914 with Frederick Lugard at its first Governor-General.

Frederick and Flora spent a lot of time when they were in England at the cottage Flora had bought in Abinger.

The town of Kano

An imperial couple - Flora and Frederick were married in Funchal, Madeira on their way to Northern Nigeria.

Once Frederick Lugard had pacified Buganda it  became a British protectorate.

The Kabaka Mwanga who ruled from 1884- 1897

St Mary’s Church, Chennai where Lugard’s father was army chaplain.