Meet The Beautiful Woman Who Gave The Name ‘Nigeria’ To Nigerians
Many Nigerians has never thought of how the name ‘Nigeria’ came about, but this article will reveal to you how, who and why the name Nigeria came about.
Dame Flora Louise Shaw, 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”.
She 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. She had nine sisters, the first and the 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 Jocelyn, first Earl of Roden.
In an essay that first appeared in The Times on 8 January 1897, by “Miss Shaw”, she suggested the name “Nigeria” for the British Protectorate on the Niger River. In her essay, Shaw made the case for a shorter term that would be used for the “agglomeration of pagan and Mahomedan States” to replace 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”, which were associated with the area by some geographers and travellers.
She thought that the term “Sudan” was associated with a territory in the Nile basin, the current Sudan. In The Times of 8 January 1897, she wrote: “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.”
Shaw was close to the three men who most epitomised empire in Africa: Cecil Rhodes, George Taubman Goldie and Sir Frederick Lugard.
She married, on 10 June 1902, 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.
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 establishing 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 refugees from Belgium, and she 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.
She died of pneumonia on 25 January 1929, aged 76, in Surrey.