Nysaland is the name for the former British protectorate that is the present-day country of Malawi. Modern Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) form the nation's borders.
A number of native ethnic groups inhabit the Nyasaland region, including the Chewa, the Yaos, the Lowmes, the Tonga, the Tumbuka, and the Ngoni. The area has been inhabited for about 12,000 years and was first visited by Europeans when the Portuguese adventurer Gaspar Bocarro explored in 1492. Like most of Africa, Nyasaland suffered the damages of the slave trade that flourished in the following centuries.
After the Scottish missionary David Livingston arrived on the shores of the lake he named Lake Nyasa in 1859, other missionaries answered his call to come to Africa and fight the slave trade.
The first European trade station was built in 1884 at Karonga in the northeastern part of the territory by the African Lakes Company, owned primarily by Glasgow traders. As Britain's imperialist expansion continued, what was known as the Shire Highlands Protectorate in 1889 became a protectorate of the crown.
The name was changed to Nyasaland Districts in 1891, to the British Central Africa Protectorate in 1893, and still later to the Nyasaland Protectorate. The area was called Nyasaland until its independence in 1964.
Nyasaland's people resented European rule and in 1915, led by John Chilembwe, openly revolted. Although they were unsuccessful in freeing themselves from foreign rule, the Africans continued to work for their independence.
The Nyasaland African Congress (later the Malawi Congress Party) was formed in 1944 with this goal in mind. When Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda became leader of the party in 1959, the movement for freedom intensified.
In 1953, at the urging of Britain and of white colonial residents hoping to establish a powerful economic center in the region, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (also called the Central African Federation) was formed.
Salisbury (now Harare) in southern Rhodesia was designated the capital of the federation. Giving powers to five governments made the constitution for the federation one of the most complex ever written.
Two British administrative offices had powers: the Commonwealth Office, which managed affairs with southern Rhodesia, and the Colonial Office, which worked in northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
In addition, each of these three territories had powerful governors, and there was a governor-general of the federation. In addition, the Africans, especially the government of northern Rhodesia now dominated by Africans, were demanding more political control of their own lives.
Nyasaland gained its independence from Britain in 1964; it was renamed Malawi in reference to the Maravi, a Bantu people who came from the southern Congo about 600 years before, and elected Dr. Banda as the new nation's first president.