Nyassa, or Nyasa (Nee-ah'sa), the southernmost of the equatorial great lakes of East Africa, is situated about 260 miles SE. of Tanganyika and 400 inland from the east coast. It lies at an altitude of 1570 feet, is very deep in the middle, shelving rapidly from the shores, which are rocky and high. Long and narrow, it measures 350 miles from north to south and an average of 40 from east to west. The river Shire goes S. from its southern extremity to the Zambesi. Although the Portuguese knew of the lake as Maravi early in the 17th c., Livingstone was the first to fix in 1859 its situation and to navigate it.
Nyassaland is the unofficial name for a region west and south of Lake Nyassa, in which, since 1878, the African Lakes Company and British missionaries - especially of the Established and Free Churches of Scotland - have been at work. In 1889 it was declared within the British sphere of influence, and in 1891 formally created the British Central Africa Protectorate. It is the most important part of a much wider area within the British sphere - British Central Africa - which extends from Lake Nyassa on the east, right across Africa to the German and Portuguese west coast possessions, with the Congo Independent State to the north, and the Zambesi dividing it from Southern Rhodesia. British Central Africa, since 1S91 under the British South Africa Company as North-eastern and North-western Rhodesia, has an area of about 500,000 sq. m., and a pop. estimated in 1903 at 350,000 (250 Europeans). The Protectorate proper of British Central Africa is administered by an Imperial Commissioner, whose authority also extends, under the charter of the British South Africa Company, to the whole of Northern Rhodesia. Lying on the western and southern shores of Lake Nyassa, it forms the eastern boundary of North-eastern Rhodesia, and has an area of 40,000 sq. m. and a population of about 900,000. Blantyre (pop. 6000, 150 Europeans) is the largest place; Zomba, on the Shire, is the seat of the commissioner. Other places are Bandawe, Port Maguire, and Fort Johnston. The Livingstonia mission here was originally founded in accordance with a suggestion of Dr Livingstone, as was also the Lakes Company, with the express purpose of counteracting the influence of the Arab slave-dealing marauders who were the curse of the region. The missions and the company had a fierce struggle with the slave-catching interest, until relieved by the government establishments. There are also settlements on Lake Moero and on Lake Bangweolo. The imports of the protectorate (cottons, provisions, hardware, machinery, agricultural implements, etc.) have an annual value of about £180,000; the exports, ivory, india-rubber, oil-seeds, rhinoceros' horns, hippopotamus' teeth, strophanthus seed, beeswax, rice, are worth near £40,000. Coffee and wheat are also grown: merino sheep thrive.