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The Central African Federation

Cohen, Andrew (2021) The Central African Federation. In: Spear, Thomas, ed. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History. Oxford Research Encyclopedias . Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. E-ISBN 978-0-19-027773-4. (doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190277734.013.421) (KAR id:87637)


The late 1940s and early 1950s saw British government policy align, albeit briefly, with European settler desire in Southern and Northern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe and Zambia) for a closer association of their territories. Widespread African opposition was overlooked, and on 1 September 1953 the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (more commonly known as the Central African Federation) came into existence. Nyasaland was included at the insistence of the British government. The Federation was a bold experiment in political power during the late stage of British colonialism and constituted one of the most intricate episodes in its retreat from empire. Explanations for the creation of the Federation centre on attempts to stymie the regional influence of apartheid South Africa and the perceived economic advantages of a closer association of Britain’s Central African colonies. African opposition to the formation of the Federation was widespread. Although this protest dissipated in the early years of Federation the early promises in racial ‘partnership’ soon proved to be insincere, this reinvigorated African protest as the 1960 Federal constitutional review drew close. The end of the Central African Federation is best explained by several intertwined pressures. As a result African nationalist protest, economic weakness and hardening settler intransigence left it obsolete. By the end of 1962 there was large-scale African opposition to Federation in both Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland and the Rhodesian Front had come to power on a platform of independence free from the Federation. The final death knell for the Federation rang with the British government’s decision that no territory should be kept in the Federation against its will.

Item Type: Book section
DOI/Identification number: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190277734.013.421
Uncontrolled keywords: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Rhodesia, settler colonialism, decolonization, African nationalism, Central African Federation
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Andrew Cohen
Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2021 08:30 UTC
Last Modified: 30 Aug 2022 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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