Flora Shaw

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The Honourable
Dame Flora Lugard
Born 19 December 1852
Woolwich, England, UK
Died 25 January 1929 (aged 76)
Surrey, England, UK
Nationality British
Other names Lady Lugard
Occupation Journalist, novelist
Spouse(s) Sir Frederick Lugard

Flora, Lady Lugard, DBE (born 19 December 1852 – 25 January 1929) was a British journalist and writer. She is credited with having coined the name "Nigeria".

Flora Louisa Shaw was born at 2 Dundas Terrace, Woolwich, the fourth of fourteen children, the daughter of an English father, Captain (later Major General) George Shaw, and a French mother, Marie Adrienne Josephine (née Desfontaines; 1826–1871), a native of Mauritius. She had nine sisters, the first and last dying in infancy, and four brothers. Her paternal grandfather was Sir Frederick Shaw, third baronet (1799–1876), of Bushy Park, Dublin, and a member of parliament from 1830 to 1848, regarded as the leader of the Irish Conservatives. Her paternal grandmother, Thomasine Emily, was the sixth daughter of the Hon. George Jocelyn, and granddaughter of Robert, first earl of Roden.[citation needed]


She began her career in journalism in 1886 and was sent by the Manchester Guardian newspaper as the only woman reporter to cover the Anti-Slavery Conference in Brussels. She became Colonial Editor for The Times, and in this connection the paper sent her as a special correspondent to Southern Africa in 1892 and in 1901, and to Australia and New Zealand in 1892, partly in order to study the question of Kanaka labour in the sugar plantations of Queensland. She also made two journeys to Canada, in 1893 and 1898, the second of which included a journey to the gold diggings of Klondike.[citation needed]

Her belief in the positive benefits of the British Empire infused her writing. As a correspondent for The Times, Shaw sent back "Letters" during 1892–93 from her travels in South Africa and Australia. Writing for the educated governing circles, she focused on the prospects of economic growth and political consolidation of these self-governing colonies within an increasingly united British Empire, a vision largely blinkered to the force of colonial nationalisms and local self-identities. These lengthy articles in a leading daily newspaper reveal a late-Victorian era metropolitan imagery of colonial space and time. Shaw projected vast empty spaces awaiting energetic English settlers and economic enterprise. Observing new landscapes from a rail carriage, for example, she selected images which served as powerful metaphors of time and motion in the construction of racial identities. Her appointment as Colonial Editor for The Times allowed her to travel throughout the British Empire.[citation needed]

A little known aspect of her prominent career was that when she first started writing for The Times, she wrote under the name of F. Shaw, trying to disguise the fact that she was a woman. Later she was so highly regarded, it did not matter and she wrote openly as Flora Shaw, and she was regarded as one of the greatest journalists of her time, specialising in politics and economics. Between 1878–86 she wrote five novels, four for children and one for young adults. The first, Castle Blair, was extremely popular in the UK and US well into the 20th century. It was based on her own Anglo-Irish childhood experiences. The critic John Ruskin called Castle Blair "'good and lovely, and true'". Shaw also wrote a history of Australia for children.[citation needed]

Shaw was close to the three men who most epitomised empire in Africa: Cecil Rhodes, George Goldie and Frederick Lugard. In 1902 she married the colonial administrator, Sir Frederick Lugard, who was Governor of Hong Kong (1907–1912) and Governor-General of Nigeria (1914–1919); they had no children. While they lived in Hong Kong she helped her husband to establish the University of Hong Kong. During the First World War, she was prominent in the founding of the War Refugees Committee, which dealt with the problem of the Belgian refugees, and founded the Lady Lugard Hospitality Committee. In 1918, she was appointed as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Encounter with Zebehr Pasha[edit]

Shaw's first journalism arose in 1886 while in Gibraltar. There, over a period of four months, she visited Zebehr Pashawho was incarcerated there. Her reports purportedly led to his release.[1]

Naming Nigeria[edit]

In an essay, which first appeared in The Times on 8 January 1897, she suggested the name "Nigeria" for the British Protectorate on the Niger River. In her essay Shaw was making a case for a shorter term that would be used for the "agglomeration of pagan and Mahomedan States" that was functioning under the official title, "Royal Niger Company Territories". She thought that the term "Royal Niger Company Territories" was too long to be used as a name of a Real Estate Property under the Trading Company in that part of Africa. What is important in Shaw’s article was that she was in search of a new name and she coined "Nigeria" in preference to such terms as "Central Sudan" that was associated with the area by some geographers and travellers. She thought that the term "Sudan" at this time was associated with a territory in the Nile basin, the current Sudan. She then put forward this argument in The Times of 8 January 1897 thus: "The name Nigeria applying to no other part of Africa may without offence to any neighbours be accepted as co-extensive with the territories over which the Royal Niger Company has extended British influence, and may serve to differentiate them equally from the colonies of Lagos and the Niger Protectorate on the coast and from the French territories of the Upper Niger."[citation needed]

Last years[edit]

In 1905 Shaw wrote what remains the definitive history of Western Sudan and the modern settlement of Northern Nigeria. She died, aged 76, in Surrey.


  1. ^ [1]RE: Zebehr Pasha, nytimes.com; archive accessed 27 March 2014.


  • Dorothy O. Helly and Helen Callaway. Shaw, Dame Flora Louisa, Lady Lugard (1852–1929), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press (2004)
  • Enid Moberly Bell. Flora Shaw – Lady Lugard DBE, London (1947)
  • Prof. Omo Omoruyi. The origin of Nigeria: God of justice not associated with an unjust political order. (2002)
  • Meyer, Karl and Shareen Brysac. Kingmakers: the Invention of the Modern Middle East, New York/London, W.W. Norton. (2008); ISBN 978-0-393-06199-4
  • Bridget Carrington. "'Good, and lovely, and true': A consideration of the contribution and legacy of Flora Shaw's fiction for children" (A Victorian Quartet: Four Forgotten Women Writers). Lichfield: Pied Piper (2008); ISBN 978-0-9552106-5-5. she was great in mind and objective.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Lugard, Sir Frederick John Dealtry". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 

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