Flora Shaw, Lady Lugard

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

Flora Louise Shaw, DBE (born 19 December 1852 – 25 January 1929) was a British journalist and writer.[1] She is credited with having coined the name "Nigeria".[2]

Early life[edit]

Flora Louisa Shaw was born at 2 Dundas Terrace, Woolwich, south London, 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.[1] 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.[3]

Writing for children[edit]

Between 1878–86 Shaw wrote five novels, four for children and one for young adults. In her books, young girls are encouraged to be resourceful and brave, but in a traditional framework, acting in support of "gentlemanly" fathers and prospective husbands rather than on their own behalf. Shaw's ideology is both sexually conservative and Imperialist.[4]

  • Castle Blair: A story of youthful days (First published London, 1877)[4]
  • Hector, a story (First serialized in Aunt Judy's Magazine, 1880-1881)[4]
  • Phyllis Browne (First serialized in Aunt Judy's Magazine, 1881-1882)[4]
  • A Sea Change (First published London, 1885)[4]
  • Colonel Cheswick's Campaign (Boston, 1886).[5]

Her first children's novel, Castle Blair, was translated into several languages and continued to be extremely popular in the UK and US well into the 20th century. It was based on her own Anglo-Irish childhood experiences. Charlotte Yonge recommended it along with works of "some of the most respected and loved authors available in late Victorian England" as "wild ... attractive and exciting".[4] The critic John Ruskin called Castle Blair "'good and lovely, and true'".[6]

Shaw also wrote a history of Australia for children, The story of Australia (London: Horace Marshall, 1897) as part of the Story of the Empire series.[7]


She began her career in journalism in 1886, writing for the Pall Mall Gazette and the Manchester Guardian.[8] She 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, making her the highest paid woman journalist of the time.[8][9] 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.[10][11]

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, later published in book form as Letters from South Africa (1893). 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.[9]

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.[12] Her appointment as Colonial Editor for The Times allowed her to travel throughout the British Empire.[9]

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.

Zebehr Pasha[edit]

Shaw first took advantage of a journalistic opportunity while staying with family friends, the Younghusbands, while in Gibraltar in 1886. There, over a period of four months, she visited Zebehr Pasha, a slaver and former Sudanese governor, who was incarcerated there. Her reports purportedly led to his release.[9][13]

Jameson Raid[edit]

Flora was required to testify before the House of Commons Select Committee on British South Africa during the political controversy surrounding the Jameson Raid into the Transvaal on 29 December 1895. She had corresponded frequently with those involved or suspected of involvement, including Cecil Rhodes, Leander Starr Jameson, Colonel Francis Rhodes, and the Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain. She was exonerated from all charges.[14]

Naming Nigeria[edit]

In an essay which first appeared in The Times of London on 8 January 1897 by " Miss Shaw", she suggested the name "Nigeria" for the British Protectorate on the Niger River.[2] 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 functioninng 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. She was in search of a new name and she coined "Nigeria" in preference to terms such as "Central Sudan" that were 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."[15][16][17]

Lady Lugard[edit]

Shaw was close to the three men who most epitomised empire in Africa: Cecil Rhodes, George Goldie and Frederick Lugard. [9]

She married, on 10 June 1902,[18] the colonial administrator, Sir Frederick Lugard, who in 1928 was created Baron Lugard. She accompanied him when he served as Governor of Hong Kong (1907–1912) and Governor-General of Nigeria (1914–1919). They had no children.[11]

In 1905 Shaw wrote what remains the definitive history of Western Sudan and the modern settlement of Northern Nigeria, A Tropical Dependency: An Outline of the Ancient History of the Western Soudan, With an Account of the Modern Settlement of Northern Nigeria (London: Nisbet, 1905).

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 the 1918 New Year Honours, she was appointed as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.[11]

She died of pneumonia on 25 January 1929, aged 76, in Surrey.[19]


  1. ^ a b Helly, Dorothy O.; Callaway, Helen (2004). Lugard, Dame Flora Louise, Lady Lugard (1852–1929) (May 2006 ed.). Oxford: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Omoruyi, Omo (2002). "The origin of Nigeria: God of justice not associated with an unjust political order". ReworkNigeria. 
  3. ^ Bell, E. Moberly (Enid Moberly) (1947). Flora Shaw, Lady Lugard, D.B.E. London: Constable. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Carrington, Bridget (2009). Paths of virtue? The development of fiction for young adult girls. Roehampton University. 
  5. ^ Carrington, Bridget (April 2010). "Many leagues behind: Researching the history of fiction for YA girls" (PDF). Write4Children. Winchester University Press. 1 (2). Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "Roberts Bros' New Books". The Evolution. A Weekly Review of Politics, Religion, Science, Literature and Art. December 1878. p. 208. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  7. ^ Carrington, Bridget (2008). "'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. Shenstone: Pied Piper. ISBN 978-0-9552106-5-5. 
  8. ^ a b "Flora (née Shaw), Lady Lugard (1852-1929), Author and journalist; wife of Frederick Lugard, 1st Baron Lugard". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Meyer, Karl E.; Brysac, Shareen Blair (2008). Kingmakers : the invention of the modern Middle East (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN 978-0-393-06199-4. 
  10. ^ Usherwood, Stephen. "From Our Own Correspondent: Flora Shaw on the Klondike". History Today. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Lugard, Sir Frederick John Dealtry". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 
  12. ^ Codell, Julie F., ed. (2003). Imperial co-histories : national identities and the British and colonial press. Madison (N.J.): Fairleigh Dickinson university press. p. 133. ISBN 978-0838639733. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "Zebehr Pasha's story". The New York Times. 16 October 1887. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  14. ^ "Catalogue of the papers of Flora Shaw, Lady Lugard". Bodleian Library. University of Oxford. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  15. ^ Shaw, Flora (8 January 1897). "Letter". The Times of London. p. 6. 
  16. ^ Correspondent, Special (2008). "Flora Shaw gives the name Nigeria" (PDF). Hogarth Blake. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  17. ^ Kwarteng, Kwasi (2012). Ghosts of Empire : Britain's Legacies in the Modern World. (1st ed.). New York: Perseus Books Group. ISBN 978-1-61039-120-7. 
  18. ^ "Court Circular". The Times (36792). London. 12 June 1902. p. 12. 
  19. ^ "Flora Shaw". The Orlando Project. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 

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