Re-Naming GEA

Have you ever wondered about how places got their name? Thanks to proofing a book on Tanzanian co-operative movements I discovered this little gem in The National Archives, Kew. Of all the German colonies in Africa to be taken over as Mandates under the League of Nations, only German East Africa (GEA) was to see a radical name change. German South West Africa simply (GSWA) became South West Africa (SWA, and then in 1990 Namibia), Kamerun became Cameroon, and Togoland changed to Togo. So how was it that GEA, excluding (Ruanda) Rwanda and Urundi (Burundi), became Tanganyika (until it became Tanzania on uniting with Zanzibar in 1964)?

CO 691/29 29530 contains the discussion. Possibilities ranged from Azania for both British and German East Africa, to New Georgia  and New Maryland, Lululand after Colonial Secretary at the outbreak of war, Louis Harcourt. North and South Kingland were other potentials, as was Eburnea by Horace Byatt in honour of the largest ivory tusks and the economic link with the ivory trade. Bantuland in recognition of the majority population was a further consideration in attempts to describe the territory in a name rather than name it after someone.

Amongst the immediately discounted were Smutsia, Balfouria, Lloyd Georgia…

On 24 June 1919, it was noted that the present title – GEA – had about 48 hours of existence left and no replacement had been decided.

In response to a prompt, Leo Amery suggested Victoria after the British victories but also Lake Victoria. His other thoughts were geographic related pending a reorganisation of the management of the British territories in East Africa.

It’s not clear who made the final decision, but it was Tanganyika – after the largest lake in the area which ran the length of the newly acquired British territory. But it appears as Tanganyika Protectorate in a later discussion on the design of the territory’s flag (CO 691/29 43245).

The giraffe on the flag – that was the suggestion of Horace Byatt, an elephant being on various other African territory flags aready.

The name Tanganyika apparently derives from the Swahili word Tanga – sail and Nyika – uninhabited plain or wilderness; although in 1877 Stanley thought it meant ‘collection of water vegetation’ (Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London). Perhaps a reader knows more specifically?

As a related aside, I remember being told at school in the 1980s that Azania would be the new name for South Africa but also Africa at some point in the future. It became caught up in the politics of the day. According to a note in the CO file, the name Azania was ‘Derived from Ancient Geographers who gave the name to all East Africa south of Cape Guardafui’.

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