Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Joseph M. Hodge

Committee Member

Robert M. Maxon

Committee Member

Tamba M'bayo

Committee Member

Michelle Stephens

Committee Member

Elias Mandala


This is a study that adopts the longue durée historical approach to analyze the main causes behind the rise of ‘insurgencies’ or the so-called resistance against the colonial and post-colonial state in the present-day southern African country called Malawi from 1891 to 1994. In turn, it also uses the concept of ‘counter-insurgency’ to analyze the various measures the states in question used to defeat the ‘insurgents’. To arrive at the conclusions made in the study, I have migrated through various domestic and transnational spaces, personalities, and documents that inform the current study. I also adopt two main historical approaches to conduct the analysis, namely: the political-economy approach and the longue durée approach.

On the history of British colonial rule in the country, between 1891 and 1964, the study has analyzed the rise of anti-state sentiments, right from the point of formal contact between the colonizer and the colonized ‘other’. I have highlighted that the factors that contributed to the rise of insurgencies or rebellions were often wide-ranging, including the native people’s unhappiness with the loss of political and economic power. The latter mainly took place due to the connection of the colonial policies of land alienation; high rates of taxation; and the elements of forced labor, mainly to aid European enterprises in the country. During the late colonial period, especially after the Second World War, it was the notion of state-led development (or the rise of the ‘developmental state’) that significantly contributed to the rise of radical forms of anti-colonial resistance, especially following the formation of a new political entity called the Central African Federation (CAF), which brought together the three British territories of Nyasaland (now Malawi), Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

I have argued that in terms of counter-insurgency, the colonial authorities responded to the various occurrences of native unrest in multiple ways, including the use of brutal force, especially through the police force and the “para-military” group called the Nyasaland Volunteer Reserve (NVR); the use of repressive laws; and also the provision of development and/or socio-economic opportunities to the disaffected communities, in the hope that doing so would win over support for the government of the day. I have used such phrases as “the winning of hearts and minds” and “the stick and the carrot,” to describe and discuss these counter-insurgency measures. In terms of the development initiatives, I have followed the colonial state’s involvement in the country’s development from the late 1920s, starting from the enactment of land tenure policies; the Colonial Development Act, 1929; the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1940 and 1945; the Colonial Development Corporation, 1948; and the CAF (1953-1963). In the post-World War II era, I have also focused the discussion on how the outbreak of the Cold War provided an impetus for the establishment of the Federation, and for the excuse to describe those who were against the Federation as Communist implants. The so-called “development” mainly served the interests of the metropole.

For the post-colonial state, I argue that what emerged was an “imported state,” in the sense that the post-colonial leadership retained most of the policies and principles that had served the predecessor colonial state. I have focused on the rise of the ‘developmental state’ during the regime of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda (1964 to 1994), who promoted the principles of import substitution industrialization (ISI) through the control of two conglomerates; the Malawi Development Corporation (MDC) and the Press Group of Companies (PGC). I have argued that like the predecessor colonial state, the “protectionism” of the post-colonial state meant that there was little or no liberalism in the political and economic sense. As such, although there were some signs of economic progress between 1964 and 1979, the country’s citizens were subjected to various abuses of human rights. Like the colonial period, those who challenged the legitimacy and authority of the Banda regime, were also subjected to various “counter-insurgency” measures that adopted various measures along the same lines as the measures employed by the colonial authorities. In this, the study highlights the roles played by the country’s women, youth, and the police force, to help consolidate the Banda regime. I have also zeroed in on the roles played by the international community, especially the British and American Governments, to help consolidate and prolong the Banda regime.

Finally, I have argued that the fall of Dr. Banda’ regime in 1994 should be regarded as marking the end of the “post-colonial state,” following the dilution or in other cases the complete departure from the policies, practices, and principles that had been “imported” from the colonial to the post-colonial state. The fall of Banda regime itself had strong connections with the advent of the economic downturn since the 1979/80 fiscal year, which I have argued, had both domestic and international causative forces. It was the subsequent intervention of international powers (especially the Western donor countries and the Bretton Woods Institutions) in determining the country’s economic process, which significantly undermined the powers of the Banda regime, especially after the end of the Cold War. In the end, domestic sources of opposition were also encouraged to spring up, leading to the events of the early 1990s where Banda was forced to give up some of his powers, and was subsequently trounced in the 1994 general elections.