The literature and documentation relating to the study of colonial Malawi (formerly Nyasaland) is quite considerable, and is increasingly being augmented by the annual output of monographs and articles, by the continuous unearthing of private collections and papers, and by governmental archival records gradually becoming available for public inspection. The purpose of this essay is to provide a guide to some of the more important works and material concerning selected aspects of Malawi's political history during the colonial period, presenting the literature in terms of the comparative analysis of political change in colonial Africa. Research work in progress is also cited, and some of the various gaps that require to be filled are mentioned.
The study of political and social change in colonial Malawi must take into account both the indigenous society and the external forces that have stimulated change, as well as the actual process of development. It is therefore necessary to have, first, some understanding of those features of the traditional environment and historical setting of precolonial Malawi which have a bearing on subsequent developments. Two useful discussions of the patterns of intertribal relations before colonization are offered by M. G. MARWICK (1963) and J. G. PIKE (1965). CLYDE MITCHELL (1960) provides a good general sketch of the African peoples and cultures, while another brief account of the tribal background appears in MARY TEW (1950). More detailed ethnographical studies relating to specific tribal groups are contained in the writings of J. CLYDE MITCHELL (1956), MARGARET READ (1956), J. M. SCHOFFELEERS (1966), J. VAN VELSEN (1964), and GODFREY WILSON (1939). These last five works also provide brief discussions of intertribal relations, the slave trade, and the early contacts of European explorers and missionaries with the African peoples. Two further important treatments of early race relations in Central Africa are the industrious volumes of A. J. HANNA (1956) and H. ALAN C. CAIRNS (1965), which are based on a vast variety of well known and obscure published sources. But, in the absence of African-derived records the story remains European centered, although the collection and assessment of African oral tradition should do much to redress the balance. For a critical analysis of Dr. Hanna's approach and interpretations, including a wealth of further material and insight, see the fine long essay by GEORGE SHEPPERSON (1958).