Trade and Travel in Early Barotseland: The Diaries of George Westbeech, 1885-1888, and Captain Norman McLeod, 1875-1876

Trade and Travel in Early Barotseland: The Diaries of George Westbeech, 1885-1888, and Captain Norman McLeod, 1875-1876

Trade and Travel in Early Barotseland: The Diaries of George Westbeech, 1885-1888, and Captain Norman McLeod, 1875-1876

Trade and Travel in Early Barotseland: The Diaries of George Westbeech, 1885-1888, and Captain Norman McLeod, 1875-1876

Excerpt

The Barotse, or Lozi, are a Bantu tribe living on the upper Zambezi River in North Western Rhodesia. Originally from northern Angola, they migrated to their present home via the headwaters of the Kabompo River, a tributary of the upper Zambezi, perhaps in the eighteenth century. The name Barotse was given them by their conquerors, the Makololo; they once called themselves A-Luyi, Men of the River, and their old language, Siluyana, which was superseded by Sikololo, continued to be used as a court language by the royal family and the headmen. Their home is the Barotse Valley, which is really a level plain fifty to sixty miles wide, beginning a short distance above the Gonye Falls and extending more than one hundred miles to the north of Lealui. The overflow of the Zambezi in summer inundates the flood plain, and it is capable of supporting a relatively large population because of its fertility.

The Barotse developed a government and political organization much superior to that of most of the Southern Bantu. They had an unwritten and rudimentary constitution and a tightly knit administrative system. Their King was a tyrant and absolute monarch who often ruled in oppressive fashion, though he was frequently deposed when his cruelties became excessive. He was assisted by a council of advisers, the principal of whom was a sort of prime minister called the Ngambela. The country was divided into districts, each one ruled by a Lozi appointed by the King, and even the village headmen were chosen by him. The Barotse were farmers and pastoralists with a riverine economy, and they were expert smiths and woodworkers. Their superior physique, intellect, and cohesiveness enabled them to extend their sovereignty over a large number of other tribes who greatly outnumbered them.

By the 1840's the Barotse had stretched their hegemony (at least that of the raid) eastwards of the Victoria Falls, and they . . .

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