Cedric Pulford wrote an Essay that is well worth the read for an outline of Barotse history (and how the once-independent kingdom has become the Western Province of Zambia) - you will find a Link (at the top of the List) by clicking on the LINKS tab on the left of your screen. Below is an edited excerpt, with his kind permission:-
The Barotse – now known as the Lozi – occupy the area around and including the flood plain of the River Zambezi up-river of the Victoria Falls in Zambia. The plain stretches for 120 miles and is 25 miles across at its widest, mostly covered by water after the rainy season. Before the middle of the 19th century, Barotse rule extended over about 250,000 square miles. All land was formally vested in the king, but his rights were limited in various ways. There were some 25 subject tribes.
The administrative capital of Barotseland is Mongu. The town lies on a bluff overlooking the Zambezi, a dramatic location chosen by the first British Resident (later Resident Commissioner), who was the official adviser to the nation, required under the Treaties mentioned below.
In the mid-19th century the Barotse were conquered by the Makololo, a branch of the Sotho from southern Africa, but eventually the Barotse regained the ascendancy, under Sekeletu, the Paramount Chief. He and his subordinate chiefs expressed a wish for English settlers.
His successor was to become the most famous Litunga (Paramount Chief) of Barotseland, Lewanika. He wanted British protection not only from the nearby war-like Matabele (originally from Zululand) under their leader Lobengula, but also from the Portuguese and from some of his own dissident subjects.
Frank Lochner, representing Cecil Rhodes’s Chartered British South Africa Company (B.S.A. Co.), secured a far-reaching Concession from Lewanika in 1890, which covered all Lewanika’s country, allowing the Company to engage in manufacturing, mining, banking, the provision of infrastructure works and the importation of arms and ammunition, in exchange for British protection.
Whatever Lewanika's fears of Lobengula, it is impossible to imagine that the Barotse king realised the full implications of such a one-sided deal. Within a few years his arch-rival was dead. However, Barotseland became absorbed into Northern Rhodesia.
Then followed the Lawley concession of 1898, that gave the Company judicial powers in disputes between whites or whites and blacks, and the Lewanika concession of 1900, which affirmed the Company’s administrative authority over the king's domains. Colin Harding, a witness to the signatures on the treaty, wrote that “[Lewanika] realised that it carried him further than he had meant to go”. Then in 1904, by a simple exchange of letters, Lewanika gave the Company farming and settlement rights. The 1909 Wallace concession included a clause under which villages and gardens were specifically allowed to be uprooted.
These constituted a massive land grab, in which British imperial officials were involved . It is hard now to understand how these people could bless such unequal treaties, or why Lewanika and his advisers gave away so much.
Two points may be made in support of Lewanika, who remains a hero to the Lozi. He kept the Barotse heartland intact, and the British came to his country by treaty, not by conquest as was the case of Lobengula’s kingdom. In Barotseland, as in much of the empire, the British style was to rule without overt displays of power.
Meanwhile, the indifference of colonialism to traditional boundaries was illustrated by the King of Italy’s boundary award of 1905. This sliced a huge chunk from Lewanika’s domains, allocating it to Portugal, though it is probable that he was left with as much as he had ever occupied effectively. He lost more than a quarter of his land but still had 181,947 square miles, nearly the size of Germany.
In 1924, the British Government took over the administration of Northern Rhodesia, including Barotseland, as a British Protectorate.
Another loss of Barotse territory occurred in 1941 when the Balovale district, where the Barotse had long claimed overlordship, was excised from Barotseland - and this is the topic of this WebSite.
Paramount Chief Lewanika 1842–1916
Colin Harding, who travelled up the Zambezi from Victoria Falls to Lealui, gave an account (“In Remotest Barotseland”, 1905) of Lewanika’s daily routine. He sat in the courthouse between 9am and 10am, hearing complaints, promulgating laws and attending to other government business. The indunas, or senior officials, representing the people, sat on his right. They alone had the right to criticise the king.
In “Far Bugles”, Harding praised Lewanika’s “charming personality”, his “loyalty and other inherent virtues”. When the Litunga visited London for the coronation of King Edward VII, with Harding in attendance, the king and his retinue were found not to touch alcohol. “Lewanika’s whole and consistent attitude was befitting a gentleman and a great native ruler,” Harding wrote.
More than sixty years later Lewanika was still winning praise. A 1968 biography, "Your Friend, Lewanika", by Gervas Clay, who had been Counsel for the Balovale Dispute (see above), could not speak too highly of the Litunga. “He died full of honour, loved and respected by his people as a great chief, leaving the heart of his country reserved to the Barotse by treaty rights, and his own family secure on the throne. No African ruler of his time achieved more, and none was more regretted by all who had known him.”