Sir George Goldie and the Making of Nigeria

By John E. Flint; Gerald S. Graham | Go to book overview

7
Major Macdonald Investigates

THE. man selected to 'inquire into certain questions affecting Imperial and Colonial interests in the West Coast of Africa, and into the position of the Royal Niger Company'1 was Major Claude Maxwell Macdonald. An army man from an army family, he had fought with Highland regiments in the Egyptian campaign of 1882, and as a volunteer in the Suakin campaign of 1884 where he had won promotion and been decorated by both the Khedive of Egypt and the Sultan of Turkey. He had then embarked upon an administrative career, first as military attaché to the British embassy in Cairo, and then to the difficult position of Acting Agent and Consul General at Zanzibar.2 His experience therefore gave him some claim to knowledge of Islamic African peoples. Though he was ambitious for a colonial or diplomatic career, Macdonald was scrupulously honest, and not afraid to speak out. Moreover, he came to the Niger with certain fixed ideas which were to prove important when seen in the perspective of developing British attitudes to the West African peoples. He assumed without question that the wishes, ideas and opinions of the African, whether he were chief or slave, were of great, if not paramount, importance in making administrative decisions; and he also took it for granted that the purpose of British control in West Africa was to achieve social reform by means of dynamic economic development.

Macdonald wrote two reports; one on the problem of the

____________________
1
FO 84/ 1881 F.O. To Macdonald 15.12.88.
2
Who was Who 1897-1916 ( 1920), p. 449. There is no article on Macdonald in the Dictionary of National Biography, a surprising omission in view of is later career on the Niger Coast, in China at the time of the 'Boxer' rebellion, and in Japan.

-129-

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