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  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: January 2018

5 - White Settlers, Frontier Chic & Colonial Racism: How Livingstone's Three Cs Fell Apart


It's a marvellous night for a moon dance.

Van Morrison, 1970

In 1905, a tiny new settlement in central Africa was named Livingstone in memory of the man who had discovered the nearby Victoria Falls. It quickly punched above its weight, becoming the capital of Northern Rhodesia in 1911, when North-Western and North-Eastern Rhodesia were amalgamated. The 290,587 square miles of territory were romantically described by the colonial historian Lewis Gann as ‘a land of limitless horizons, and nothing moves the stranger more than the sheer immensity of the veld’. Southerners always considered it remote and backward. The distance from Lusaka to Cape Town was measured as the same as London to Kiev. It was not just its shape that was awkward. The BSAC administered the region until 1924, when the Colonial Office took over the protectorate (see Map 5.1). However, the company retained mineral rights and the freehold of vast tracts of land. Despite nestling close to one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, Livingstone the town lost its status as the territory's capital in 1936.

This chapter explores the colonial history of this unusual frontier settler town in relation to the memorialisation of Livingstone. White settlers were often rather unsentimental about high-Victorian liberal humanitarianism. Indeed, this chapter marks its death. Nevertheless, ‘white settler pioneer man’ and the general achievements of life ‘on the frontier’ were routinely celebrated through Livingstone the person. Sacrifice, struggle and disappointment made bravery, stoicism and toughness important emotional qualities to revere, celebrated at memorialisations, especially through a vibrant, outspoken local press. European domination was precarious but defiant to the end, which came quickly. There was little sign of conceding any ground to nationalists by the 1960s ‘wind of change’ era; a perfect illustration of how disconnected imperial worlds-within-worlds became. As the end of British colonial rule approached, emotions ran high. Disappointment, anger and racism poured into each other, like the waters at the Boiling Point of the Victoria Falls (see Figure 5.1).

Livingstone's Drift: The Slow Spread of White Settler Pioneers

The first trickle of Europeans began to settle in the area north of the Zambezi River from the late 1890s onwards. They believed that they were not just making history but beginning it. In January 1905, the BSAC drew up an agreement with the Paramount Chief of Barotse.

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Empire of Sentiment
  • Online ISBN: 9781108182591
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