British Central Africa

From Academic Kids

The British Central Africa Protectorate existed in the area of present-day Malawi between 1891 and 1907.

The Shire Highlands south of Lake Nyasa and the lands west of the lake had been of interest to the British since they were first explored by David Livingstone in the 1850s, and commercial interests began moving in during the 1880s. In 1889, the Anglo-Portuguese Crisis erupted over control of the area, and Britain declared a Shire Highlands Protectorate, extending it to a Nyasaland Districts Protectorate in 1891, and renaming to British Central Africa Protectorate in 1893.

Sir Henry Hamilton Johnston was commissioner from 1 February 1891 to 16 April 1896. In addition to establishing the administration and police force, he granted land to plantation farmers, and mining companies, gradually dispossessing the natives, who were not familiar with the legal process. Coffee became the chief cash crop.

Blantyre was the economic and cultural center of the protectorate, while Zomba in the Highlands was the governor's residence and administrative center.

Sir Alfred Sharpe took over as commissioner in 1896, serving until 1 April 1910, with Francis Barrow Pearce and William Henry Manning as acting commissioner for a period in 1907 and 1908.

The protectorate was changed to the Nyasaland Protectorate on 6 July 1907.

Postage stamps and postal history of British Central Africa

Missing image
Two pence, 1896

The first postage stamps of the protectorate were issued in April 1891, produced by overprint the Rhodesian stamps of the British South Africa Company with B.C.A.. A number of new post offices opened during the year, including Blantyre, Zomba, Chiromo, Port Herald, Fort Mlange, Fort Johnston at the southern end of the lake, and Karonga at the northern end of the lake.

Surcharged BSAC stamps were necessary in 1892, 1893, and 1895. 1895 also saw the introduction of stamps printed for the protectorate, featuring the protectorate's coat of arms and inscribed BRITISH CENTRAL AFRICA. The 1895 issue was printed by De La Rue on unwatermarked paper, but from February 1896 on the paper had either the Crown over CC or Crown over CA watermarks.

Missing image
Six pence, 1897

In August of 1897 a new design was introduced, still using the coat of arms, but with a clear instead of a lined background.

In 1898 the supply of one-penny stamps ran out. Initially the supply of 3-shilling stamps was surcharged, then on 11 March the government issued embossed revenue stamps overprinted with INTERNAL / POSTAGE.

Missing image
One pence of 1903, cancelled at Chiromo with a squared-circle postmark

In 1901, the 1d, 4d, and 6d values of the 1897 stamps were printed in different colors. In 1903 a new series of stamps was issued, featuring the profile of King Edward VII and inscribed BRITISH CENTRAL AFRICA / PROTECTORATE, with denominations from one penny to ten pounds.

Subsequent stamps were issued by the Nyasaland Protectorate.


  • Fred J. Melville, British Central Africa
  • De Robeck, A Pictorial Essay of the 1898 Provisional of British Central Africa - Nyasaland

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