The British trader and empire builder Sir George Dashwood Taubman Goldie (1846-1925) created the Royal Niger Company, which secured British claims to the lower Niger and Northern Nigeria.
The son of the Speaker of the Manx Parliament, George Goldie was born on the Isle of Man. His family were influential landowners on the island. The family name was Taubman, but Goldie adopted his mother’s family name when he was knighted in 1887.
In the 1860s Goldie trained as a royal engineer at Woolwich but afterward used a legacy to visit Egypt, where he took an Arab mistress. He went to the Sudan, living an idyllic and isolated life for 3 years, learning Arabic and reading extensively in African travel literature. He also met Hausa pilgrims from Nigeria and began studying that country.
Returning to England, Goldie ran away to Paris with the family governess, Mathilda Elliot, and they were caught in the Prussian siege of 1870 and were married in July 1871. Goldie’s escapades and an avowed atheism cut him off from an official career and the highest circles of Victorian society.
In 1875 the Taubman family purchased a near-bankrupt firm which traded on the Niger River. Goldie was given the task of putting its affairs in order and visited the Niger for the first time. He concluded that over competition was ruining all the British firms on the river, and he set out to create a single monopolistic organization. By 1879 he had succeeded in amalgamating the British firms into the United African Company but thereafter had to face competition from the Africans and French.
Goldie then decided to secure administrative rights by treaty from Africans to establish his company as a government which could exclude competitors by administrative measures. In 1882 he formed the National African Company for this purpose and began treaty making. By 1884 Goldie had ruined the French competition, and at the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) Britain was given the task of administering the lower Niger. The British government was unwilling to spend money for such a purpose and in 1886 gave a royal charter to Goldie’s company, which was renamed the Royal Niger Company.
By 1892 the company had established a complete monopoly of trade. The British government ignored the opposition this provoked because the company was expanding and establishing British territorial claims in Nigeria at no cost to the taxpayer. In 1895, however, a commission of inquiry investigated the company, and Joseph Chamberlain, the new colonial secretary, determined to take over Goldie’s administration. This was delayed by struggles with the French on Northern Nigeria’s frontiers, but eventually in 1900 the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria took over the company’s administrative functions.
Thereafter Goldie played little part in public life, rejecting various offers of colonial governorships and turning down an offer to take control of the British South Africa Company after Cecil Rhodes’s death. He died in London on Aug. 25, 1925.
Goldie destroyed his papers during World War I and never wrote his intended memoirs