Page, Melvin E. "The War of Thangata: Nyasaland and The East African Campaign, 1914-1918"

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Contributed date

February 24, 2021 - 4:19am

Critical Commentary

During World War I, Africans in Nyasaland were called upon to provide large numbers of soldiers and military labourers for the war effort in eastern Africa. Although a few willingly volunteered, many more objected, and some resisted. In this situation, colonial officals used force to secure the necessary manpower. Africans, therefore, called the conflict 'the war of thangata', referring to the growing colonial demands for taxes and for labour rent on European estates. The tasks which the soldiers and carriers were called upon to perform were equally likened to thangata, being 'work which was done without real benefit'. So far from receiving rewards, Africans found that inadequate food, clothing, and medical care contributed greatly to the sufferings associated with a military campaign. Between 1914 and 1918 wartime manpower requirements, and war service, gave full meaning to colonial rule throughout the protectorate. The response to these demands and this suffering brought, in the form of both traditional and modern religious and social institutions, the first tentative stirrings of African nationalism in Nyasaland.


Page, Melvin E. “The War of Thangata: Nyasaland and The East African Campaign, 1914-1918.” The Journal of African History, vol. 19, no. 1, 1978, pp. 87–100. JSTOR, Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.