- This photograph was taken in 1900. It shows police officers in Natal,
one of the provinces of South Africa, which was under British rule at
- The officers are Africans, but they are in uniforms similar to that
of British police back in Britain.
- The photograph shows that Africans were involved in the day-to-day
process of enforcing British rules and laws. These men were probably
trusted and responsible members of their particular nations.
- The picture also reminds us that British rule relied heavily on native
peoples to make it work. It would be easy to find similar pictures of
Indian police in India, Chinese police in Hong Kong and so on.
- Admirers of British rule point out that British rule did help to stabilise
situations in areas which had seen a lot of conflict before the British
arrived. There is evidence that British officials were seen as honest
and reliable judges and local people often asked them to make judgements
- Critics of British rule point out that native police officers
never rose to positions of authority. There is also some evidence that
poor pay and bad treatment of the officers sometimes led to corruption.
The British presence could create conflicts as well as settle conflicts.