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Voices from the Chilembwe Rising : Witness Testimonies Made to the Nyasaland Rising Commission of
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The Chilembwe (or Nyasaland) Rising of January 1915 is one of the most fascinating episodes in the history of resistance in southern Africa. A small-scale event, suppressed within a matter of days, the Rising has been described by leading historian John Iliffe as the only significant rebellion in the whole of Africa prior to the First World War to be inspired by Christianity. Its leader, John Chilembwe, a Baptist minister trained in the United States, is now lauded in official circles as Malawi's first nationalist; his image is depicted on the country's banknotes.This book contains a comprehensive selection of the verbatim and written evidence presented to the Commission of Inquiry set up to examine the causes of the Rising. Witnesses included colonial officials, missionaries, and settlers, but also a substantial number of Malawians, among them Presbyterian ministers and teachers, government clerks, businessmen, chiefs, and headmen. Five European women, dramatically caught up in the Rising, add their own accounts of events; the Commission's report is published in full.Together, these testimonies are a fundamental source for an understanding of the causes and character of the Rising. More generally, they throw a revealing light on social and economic relations in early colonial Malawi. John McCracken provides extensive explanatory comments focusing, in particular, on the problematic nature of the sources. An appendix gives detailed notes on the individuals involved.