Decolonising the First World War: The Case of the Northern Rhodesian Askari, 1914-1918

  • Mutale T. Mazimba The University of Zambia
Keywords: Decolonisation, First World War, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), askari (soldiers), and East Africa campaign


Studies have been done on African soldiers in former British colonies such as Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Nyasaland (Nyasaland) and South Africa. However, Northern Rhodesia has remained largely outside the scope of historical studies. Therefore, Northern Rhodesia’s important role in the First World War has received little attention. This article, therefore, highlights the incorporation of Northern Rhodesia’s askari (soldiers) into what was essentially a European war. In this way, it attempts to decolonise the history of the First World War which has viewed African theatres as marginal and unimportant on the global scale. It also brings out the experiences of Africans in this global war and their reactions to these experiences. The article uses the rich primary data in archives and museums in Zambia. It argues that Northern Rhodesia was an important player in the East Africa campaign; its soldiers had negative experiences in the war and reacted in various ways to these experiences. This article highlights the wider importance of African colonial troops to the Allied war effort.