|Description||The last incarnation of this company prior to the merger with the African and Eastern Trade Corporation in 1929 was as the Niger Company Ltd , but this was part of a long process of amalgamation, commencing with:|
The United African Company Ltd (1879-1882)
In 1879 George Dashwood Goldie Taubman (1846-1925) merged four existing companies (Alexander Miller, Brother and Company; the Central African Trading Company Ltd; the West African Company Ltd; and James Pinnock) to form The United African Company Ltd, trading on the lower reaches of the River Niger. The new company was faced with competition from the Compagnie Française de l'Afrique Equatoriale, formed in 1878. Taubman wanted the British Government to give him a royal charter allowing him to govern a protectorate on the Niger, but the company, dwarfed by the Compagnie Française, was seen as being too small.
The National African Company Ltd (1882-1886)
In 1882 Taubman changed the name of the company to The National African Company Ltd, enlarged its capital, and bought out the Compagnie Française in 1884. In 1885 he asserted at the Berlin Conference that British interests were supreme on the lower Niger. The British government was now compelled to grant a charter in 1886.
The Royal Niger Company Chartered and Limited (1886-1900)
In 1886 the company became The Royal Niger Company Chartered and Limited, and in 1887 Taubman became Sir George Goldie. The company was now responsible for administration as well as trade along the lower Niger. In 1894 Goldie hired Captain Lugard to lead an expedition into northern Nigeria to negotiate treaties with the rulers. In 1897 the Royal Niger Constabulary attacked Bida and Ilorin and defeated an army thirty times their size. The Emir of Nupe and the Emir of Ilorin were defeated and their territories were made subject to the company. In 1897 the West African Frontier Force was established under Lugard, and the British and the French confronted each other in northern Nigeria. A diplomatic settlement, to the advantage of Britain, was reached in 1898, resulting in the establishment of the boundary of Nigeria. From 1893, The Royal Niger Company bought out the African Association, made it a partner, and then used its new strength to drive out all of the remaining independent traders on the lower Niger.
The Niger Company Ltd (from 1900)
The Royal Niger Company's charter was revoked in 1900, its territory passing under the control of the British government, and was thereby reduced to a purely trading concern, The Niger Company Ltd. In 1913 the company set up the Compagnie du Niger Français in Paris as a subsidiary, to operate in Senegal and the French Sudan (Mali). In 1916 R Hassan and Company Ltd, dealing in hides and skins, was taken over. In 1917 the company acquired a controlling interest in The Company of African Merchants. In 1918 the general merchant firm of G W Christian and Company Ltd was taken over. In 1920 The Niger Company was purchased by Lever Brothers.
This section of the catalogue comprises the records of all of the subsidiaries acquired by William Lever from 1910 onwards, which originally formed the 'West African Department' of Lever Bros Ltd. After 1920 this department took the name 'Niger Company' and the combined trading activities of the concern in West Africa were referred to as the 'Niger group'