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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:A police state? The Nyasaland emergency and colonial intelligence
Author:Murphy, PhilipISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies (ISSN 1465-3893)
Geographic term:Malawi
Subjects:state of emergency
colonial policy
commissions of inquiry
intelligence services
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03057070.2010.527634
Abstract:The Nyasaland Emergency in 1959 proved a decisive turning point in the history of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, now Malawi. The British and Nyasaland governments defended the emergency by claiming to have gathered intelligence which showed that the Nyasaland African Congress was preparing a campaign of sabotage and murder. The Devlin Commission, appointed to investigate the emergency, dismissed the evidence of a 'murder plot', criticized the Nyasaland government's handling of the emergency and described Nyasaland as a 'police state'. This article has two aims. First, using the recently declassified papers of the Intelligence and Security Department (ISD) of the Colonial Office, it provides the first detailed account of what the British government knew of the intelligence relating to the 'murder plot' and how they assessed it, prior to the outbreak of the emergency. It demonstrates that officials in the ISD and members of the Security Service adopted a far more cautious attitude towards the intelligence than did Conservative ministers, and had greater qualms about allowing it into the public domain to justify government policy. Second, the article examines the implications of Devlin's use of the phrase 'police state' for Nyasaland and for the late colonial State in general. It contrasts Devlin's use of the term with that of security experts in the ISD, who routinely applied it to policing systems that diverged from their own preferred model. The article suggests that the frequent use of the term 'police state' was indicative of broader anxieties about what Britain's legacy would be for the postindependence African State. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract, edited]