Frederick Lugard, Baron of Abinger

Frederick Lugard, Baron of Abinger
Frederick Lugard, Baron of Abinger

Baron Lugard directed the conquest and administration of Nigeria as well as serving as a soldier elsewhere in British West Africa and as a governor in Hong Kong. His military career indicates the opportunities available to aspiring young officers who served the British Empire at its height. As an administrator, he theorized about the responsibilities of the British to themselves and to the inhabitants of the conquered territories.

Born in Madras (Chennai) in British-controlled India to an Anglican minister, Lugard went to England early in his childhood. He received a solid education as a youth before entering the British Royal Military College at Sandhurst. Upon graduating he joined the army in 1878.

He served in the Afghan War (1879–80), the British campaign in the Sudan (1884–85), and Burma (1886–87). He returned to Africa in 1888, where he was wounded in combat against Arab slave traders in Nyasaland.

In the service of the Imperial British East Africa Company, Lugard led a team of explorers in the region of the Sabaki River before heading to Uganda in 1890. After ensuring British control of the area and ending unrest, he earned the title of military administrator of Uganda.

While in that capacity, he continued his explorations of Africa. He resigned his position in May 1892 and returned to London, where he convinced the government of Prime Minister Gladstone to remain in Uganda.

When Lugard returned to Africa in 1894, he worked for the Royal Niger Company. He pursued negotiations with various kings and chiefs so as to gain recognition of the company's power in the region and, by extension, that of the British over other European rivals.

While conducting an expedition to Lake Ngami in 1897 for the British West Charterland Company, Lugard was recalled by the British government so that he could organize a force of native Africans to defend British interests against the French in Lagos and Nigeria. His West African Frontier Force remained under Lugard's command until December 1899.

From 1900 until 1906, Lugard served as high commissioner of the protectorate of Northern Nigeria. Various local potentates, such as the sultan of Sukoto, refused to accept the provisions of treaties that they had signed. In 1903 Lugard triumphed over this opposition through a combination of diplomacy and military force.

Before he left in 1906, Lugard had secured British control over all of Nigeria, though the military still confronted uprisings. His efforts also resulted in an improvement in British commerce; newly laid rail lines carried tin, peanuts, and cotton to the coast.

Lugard favored indirect rule; by defeating indigenous rulers, he could control their peoples on behalf of the British. He accepted emirs who no longer traded slaves, acknowledged British authority, and introduced the measures that the British desired. These emirs retained their titles but took their orders from district officers; emirs could lose their positions if the

British high commissioner found them uncooperative. Thus, the British could reduce the number of colonial officers needed to supervise the territory. Lugard preserved Muslim control over education and medicine in Northern Nigeria, while Christian missionaries provided social services in the south. This resulted in an inequality between the two protectorates as conditions in the south improved.

Lugard spent the next few years in Hong Kong, where he held the position of governor until March 1912. He schemed to gain perpetual control over the rented New Territories, perhaps opening the way for permanent British control of Hong Kong, but his plans did not come to fruition. He also created the basis for the University of Hong Kong in 1911.

He returned to Nigeria as governor in 1912, when he focused on ending the existing system of two protectorates in favor of a single colony. Many intellectuals and the press in Lagos opposed the plan, but the citizenry as a whole did not react.

Lugard became governor-general of the colony of Nigeria from 1914 to 1919. As governor he attempted to prevent the importation or consumption of alcoholic beverages; he also tried to end slavery in the colony.

Lugard published numerous works in which he traced the genesis of the British Empire in Africa and rationalized its rule over Africans. In The Rise of Our East African Empire (1893) he emphasized the economic motives that compelled the British to seek new markets and to secure sources of raw materials; he justified the initial costs of conquest and anticipated the enormous financial benefits to come.

He further contended that the British had inherited the duty to expand the empire from their ancestors, who had shown considerable initiative in exploring and settling North America and Australia.

For Lugard, Britain's contributions to the welfare of Africans—the introduction of Christianity, the abolition of slavery, the spread of better medical treatments, and the improvement of education—would accompany its exploitation of Africa's natural and human resources for its own economic benefit.

Lugard's The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa (1922) presented a justification for his application of indirect rule in Nigeria, as well as continuing to elaborate a rationale for British rule in Africa. He perceived black Africans as different from white Europeans and believed that they needed training before they could control their own affairs entirely.

By coopting native elites, who spoke the local language and practiced the local customs, as administrators under a British supervisor, Lugard believed that the British could increase cooperation on the part of natives.

After his decades of service to the British Empire, the aging Lugard settled down to live in England. He died in 1945, after having been appointed a member of the Privy Council in 1920 and being raised to the peerage in 1928.