Although most of the Bantu peoples continued south, some remained permanently and founded tribes based on common ancestry. By 1500 AD, the tribes had established a kingdom that reached from north of what is now Nkhotakota to the Zambezi River and from Lake Malawi to the Luangwa River in what is now Zambia.
Soon after 1600, with the area mostly united under one native ruler, native tribesmen began encountering, trading with and making alliances with Portuguese traders and members of the military. By 1700, however, the empire had broken up into areas controlled by many individual tribes, which was noted by the Portuguese in their information gathering. The Swahili-Arab slave trade reached its height about 150 years ago, when approximately 20,000 slaves were considered to be carried yearly from Nkhotakota to Kilwa where they were sold.
David Livingstone reached Lake Malawi (then Lake Nyasa) in 1859 and identified the Shire Highlands south of the lake as an area suitable for European settlement. As the result of Livingstone's visit, several Anglican and Presbyterian missions were established in the area in the 1860s and 1870s, the African Lakes Company Limited was established in 1878 to set up a trade and transport concern working closely with the missions, and a small mission and trading settlement was established at Blantyre in 1876 and a British Consul took up residence there in 1883. The Portuguese government was also interested in the area so, to prevent Portuguese occupation, the British government sent Harry Johnston as British consul with instructions to make treaties with local rulers beyond Portuguese jurisdiction.  In 1889, a British protectorate was proclaimed over the Shire Highlands, which was extended in 1891 to include the whole of present day Malawi as the British Central Africa Protectorate. In 1907, the protectorate was renamed Nyasaland, a name it retained for the remainder of its time under British rule. In a prime example of what is sometimes called the "Thin White Line" of colonial authority in Africa, the colonial government of Nyasaland was formed in 1891. The administrators were given a budget of £10,000 (1891 nominal value) per year, which was enough to employ ten European civilians, two military officers, seventy Punjab Sikhs, and eighty-five Zanzibar porters. These few employees were then expected to administer and police a territory of around 94,000 square kilometres with between one and two million people.
1897 British central Africa stamp issued by the United Kingdom
In 1944, the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) was formed by the Africans of Nyasaland to promote local interests to the British government. In 1953, Britain linked Nyasaland with Northern and Southern Rhodesia in what was known as the central African Federation (CAF), for mainly political reasons. Even though the Federation was semi-independent the linking provoked opposition from African nationalists, and the NAC gained popular support.
An influential opponent of the CAF was Dr. Hastings Banda, a European-trained doctor working in Ghana who was persuaded to return to Nyasaland in 1958 to assist the nationalist cause. Banda was elected president of the NAC and worked to mobilise nationalist sentiment before being jailed by colonial authorities in 1959. He was released in 1960 and asked to help draft a new constitution for Nyasaland, with a clause granting Africans the majority in the colony's Legislative Council.
In 1961, Banda's Malawi Congress Party (MCP) gained a majority in the Legislative Council elections and Banda became Prime Minister in 1963. The Federation was dissolved in 1963, and on 6 July 1964, Nyasaland became independent from British rule and renamed itself Malawi. Under a new constitution, Malawi became a republic with Banda as its first president. The new document also formally made Malawi a single-party state with the MCP as the only legal party. In 1971, Banda declared himself president-for-life. For almost 30 years, Banda presided over a rigidly authoritarian regime, suppressing opposition to his party and ensuring that he had no personal opposition.
Despite his political severity, however, Malawi's economy while Banda was president was often cited as an example of how a poor, landlocked, heavily populated, mineral-poor country could achieve progress in both agriculture and industrial development. While in office, and using his control of the country, Banda constructed a business empire that eventually produced one-third of the country's GDP and employed 10% of the wage-earning workforce.
Under pressure for increased political freedom, Banda agreed to a referendum in 1993, where the populace voted for a multi-party democracy. In late 1993 a presidential council was formed, the life presidency was abolished and a new constitution was put into place, effectively ending the MCP's rule. In 1994 the first multi-party elections were held in Malawi, and Banda was defeated by Bakili Muluzi. Reelected in 1998, Muluzi remained president until 2004, when Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika was elected. Although the political environment is described as "challenging", as of 2009, the multi-party system still exists in Malawi. Multiparty parliamentary and presidential elections were held for the fourth time in Malawi in May 2009, and President Mutharika was successfully re-elected, despite charges of election fraud from his rival.
President Mutharika was seen by some as increasingly autocratic and dismissive of human rights, and in July 2011 protests over high costs of living, devolving foreign relations, poor governance and a lack of foreign exchange reserves erupted. The protests left 18 people dead and at least 44 others suffering from gunshot wounds. In April 2012, Mutharika died of a heart attack; the presidential title was taken over by former Vice-President Joyce Banda.
History of Malawi. The History of Malawi covers the area of present-day Malawi.
The region was once part of the Maravi Empire. In colonial times, the territory was ruled by the British, under whose control it was known first as British Central Africa and later Nyasaland. It became part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The country achieved full independence, as Malawi, in 1964. After independence, Malawi was ruled as a one-party state under Hastings Banda until 1994. Prehistory In 1991 a hominin jawbone was discovered near Uraha village that was between 2.3 and 2.5 million years old, the oldest evidence of the genus Homo ever discovered. Early humans inhabited the vicinity of Lake Malawi 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Maravi Empire Map of the Mavari Kingdom at its greatest extent, c. 1650 The name Malawi is thought to derive from the word Maravi. Trade and invasions Portuguese influence Angoni Ayao Arabs and their Swahili allies
Prehistory. The Maravi empire. Maravi. Maravi Kingdom at its greater extent in the 17th century.
Maravi was a state established by the Bantu Chewa people, descendants of the Amaravi, in the area of Lake Malawi, in present-day Malawi, in the 16th century. The present-day name "Malawi" is said to derive from "Maravi" which itself means "fire flames".
British Central Africa Protectorate. The British Central Africa Protectorate (BCA) was a protectorate proclaimed in 1889 and ratified in 1891 that occupied the same area as present-day Malawi: it was renamed Nyasaland in 1907.
British interest in the area arose from visits by David Livingstone from 1858 onward during his exploration of the Zambezi area. This encouraged missionary activity starting in the 1860s, followed by a small number of settlers. The Portuguese government attempted to claim much of this area, but their claims were disputed by the British government. British central Africa protectorate. Nyasaland. The Independance struggle. The federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Self-governing status of Nyasaland. Malawian independance. One-party rule. Multi-party democracy. Malawi in the 21st century.