How and Why Flora Shaw, Lord Lugard’s Wife, Coined the name Nigeria in 1897

The origin of the name ‘Nigeria’ lies in one of Africa’s most popular rivers, the River Niger. It is important to know that Lord Lugard’s wife, Flora Shaw, was credited for naming the country ‘Nigeria’.

History has it in profile that Flora Shaw coined the name ‘Nigeria’ in 1897. How did it happen?

 

Who was Flora Shaw?

Flora Shaw, the woman who named Nigeria
Flora Shaw, the woman who named Nigeria

Flora Shaw was a journalist and author with four children novels and one adult novel to her name. She was born in Woolwich, South London, to an English father, Captain (later Major General) George Shaw, and a French mother, Marie Adrienne Josephine (née Desfontaines) who was a native of Mauritius.

She began her career in journalism in 1886, writing for the Pall Mall Gazette and the Manchester Guardian. She was sent by the Manchester Guardian to cover the Anti-Slavery Conference in Brussels.

Later on, she became Colonial Editor for The Times, which made her the highest-paid woman journalist of the time. With that connection, she was sent as a special correspondent to Southern Africa in 1892.

How did Flora Shaw Name Nigeria?

A straightforward answer to the question “who named Nigeria” is Flora Shaw. But, how did it happen? Before ‘Nigeria’ was coined, it used to be known by different titles which include Royal Niger Company Territories, Niger Sudan, Niger Empire and so on.

Flora Shaw and Lord Lugard
Flora Shaw and Lord Lugard

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, she made the case for a shorter-term that would be used for the territory 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 later married Lord Fredrick Lugard on the 10th of June, 1902. They had no children. She died of pneumonia on 25 January 1929, at the age of 76, in Surrey, England.