Basutoland is one of those names that you might remember if you ever collected stamps. It’s also the name by which Lesotho used to be known.
People think of Lesotho as a small country, but there are over 2 million people living here and it has had plenty of interesting history, including being invaded by us. King Moshoeshoe I came to power in the 1830s. For a considerable time he repulsed both overly keen Brits and overly keen Boers. But by 1868 Moshoeshoe was feeling the pressure from the Boers and eventually agreed to Basutoland becoming a British protectorate. Moshoeshoe died in 1870 and in 1871 we moved in and annexed the country to Cape Colony. In the early years, this meant little change in Basutoland, but by the late 1870s the situation was getting a lot more tense. Governor Henry Bartle Frere wanted to reserve some of the territory for settlement. He also wanted the locals’ guns under the 1879 Peace Protection Act. The result was the Basutoland Gun War. Obviously all modern wars have guns in them, but this was about guns as well, so that’s why it got the name. It would get a bit boring and hugely confusing naming every war that just involved guns, the Gun War.
It didn’t go very well for us. When Basotho chiefs started a rebellion, we sent in a force from Cape Colony to crush it. Which didn’t happen. Instead our troops found themselves in some difficulties, with, for instance, an ambush of a mounted column at Qalabani in October 1880 inflicting heavy casualties. Eventually we decided it was time to talk and in 1881 a peace treaty was signed giving the Basotho much of what they had wanted, including the right to keep their guns. In 1884, Basutoland was made a Crown colony and given more self-government.
Lesotho became independent in 1966.