Malawi’s capital is Lilongwe. This fact is not only useful for pub quizzes, but it’s also a name that rolls off the tongue. Try it.
In 1859, David Livingstone turned up at Lake Malawi, which was then called Lake Nyasa. By 1888 the African Lakes Company had set itself up in the area. But it had competition. Big competition. The Portuguese aspired to link the territory they controlled on the east coast of Africa to the territory they controlled on the west coast and the area of present-day Malawi was in the middle of the projected Portuguese coast-to-coast zone of control.
Despite all this, and despite the Portuguese being our long-term friends, we decided we still really wanted the territory for ourselves. In 1889, Cecil Rhodes helped fund the local British consul in Mozambique, Harry Johnston, in a PR campaign to sign local chiefs up to treaties with Britain before the Portuguese could really get moving. The Anglo-Portuguese crisis of 1889–90 (yes, there was one) led to an ultimatum from us on 11 January 1890, and when the Portuguese eventually backed down, it led to the Treaty of London in August 1890 defining the borders of Angola and Mozambique. It didn’t make us at all popular with the Portuguese, but it did help us to secure the land we wanted.
Nyasaland (as Malawi was then known) was formally declared a British Protectorate in 1891. In 1964 Nyasaland became independent and became Malawi.