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History of Tanzania
 
 
 

Early History

Most of the known history of Tanganyika (the name for the mainland prior to the 1964 union with Zanzibar) before 1964 concerns the coastal area, although the interior has a number of important prehistoric sites, including the Olduvai Gorge. Trading contacts between Arabia and the East African coast existed by the 1st century AD, and there are indications of connections with India. The coastal trading centres were mainly Arab settlements, and relations between the Arabs and their African neighbours appear to have been fairly friendly. After the arrival of the Portuguese in the late 15th century, the position of the Arabs was gradually undermined, but the Portuguese made little attempt to penetrate into the interior. They lost their foothold north of the Ruvuma River early in the 18th century as a result of an alliance between the coastal Arabs and the ruler of Muscat on the Arabian Peninsula. This link remained extremely tenuous, however, until French interest in the slave trade from the ancient town of Kilwa, on the Tanganyikan coast, revived the trade in 1776. Attention by the French also aroused the sultan of Muscat's interest in the economic possibilities of the East African coast, and a new Omani governor was appointed at Kilwa. For some time most of the slaves came from the Kilwa hinterland, and until the 19th century such contacts as existed between the coast and the interior were due mainly to African caravans from the interior.

In their constant search for slaves, Arab traders began to penetrate farther into the interior, more particularly in the southeast toward Lake Nyasa. Farther north two merchants from India followed the tribal trade routes to reach the country of the Nyamwezi about 1825. Along this route ivory appears to have been as great an attraction as slaves, and Sa'id bin Sultan himself, after the transfer of his capital from Muscat to Zanzibar, gave every encouragement to the Arabs to pursue these trading possibilities. From the Nyamwezi country the Arabs pressed on to Lake Tanganyika in the early 1840s. Tabora (or Kazé, as it was then called) and Ujiji, on Lake Tanganyika, became important trading centres, and a number of Arabs made their homes there. They did not annex these territories but occasionally ejected hostile chieftains.

The rise of Zanzibar as a commercial centre was largely do to its trading links to the interior. Many of the caravan routes that stretched across East Africa were pioneered by African mainland societies. For example, the Yao living around Lake Malawi supplied the southern Tanzania trading town of Kilwa with slaves and ivory. African societies that gained control over the trade routes enhanced their power and wealth. In northeast Tanzania, a powerful trading and military state emerged in the 1860s in Urambo. Its leader, Mirambo was an excellent military and commercial strategist. He challenged the position of coastal traders in the area as well as the leading states that were closely aligned to Zanzibar. His empire was purely a personal one, however, and collapsed on his death in 1884.

European Colonialism

The first Europeans to show an interest in Tanganyika in the 19th century were missionaries of the Church Missionary Society, Johann Ludwig Krapf and Johannes Rebmann, who in the late 1840s reached Kilimanjaro. It was a fellow missionary, Jakob Erhardt, whose famous "slug" map (showing, on Arab information, a vast, shapeless, inland lake) helped stimulate the interest of the British explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke. They traveled from Bagamoyo to Lake Tanganyika in 1857-58, and Speke also saw Lake Victoria. This expedition was followed by Speke's second journey, in 1860, in the company of J.A. Grant, to justify the former's claim that the Nile rose in Lake Victoria. These primarily geographic explorations were followed by the activities of David Livingstone, who in 1866 set out on his last journey for Lake Nyasa. Livingstone's object was to expose the horrors of the slave trade and, by opening up legitimate trade with the interior, to destroy the slave trade at its roots. Livingstone's journey led to the later expeditions of H.M. Stanley and V.L. Cameron. Spurred on by Livingstone's work and example, a number of missionary societies began to take an interest in East Africa after 1860.

Tanganyika came under German influence in 1884–85, when Karl Peters concluded treaties with chiefs of the interior in order to secure a charter for his German East Africa Company.

In 1890, two treaties between Germany and Great Britain were signed: the first partitioned the territories on the mainland hitherto controlled by the sultan of Zanzibar; the second officially recognised Anglo-German spheres of influence, excluded Germany from the Upper Nile, and established a British protectorate over Zanzibar and Pemba. Tanganyika and Ruanda-Urundi (now Rwanda and Burundi) became recognised as German East Africa in 1891. As they occupied the interior, the German-led troops put down African opposition and uprisings. Intense military opposition to the European imperialism was led by Mirambo of the Nyamwezi in northwest Tanzania, by Mkwawa of the Hehe in southern highlands and by Meli of the Chagga around Kilimanjaro. However, the most bloody and intense opposition to German rule was the Maji-Maji war from 1905–1907. This war was inspired by Kinjekitile, a charismatic spiritual leader from southern Tanzania, succeeded in uniting a large number of African societies to fight the Germans. People who took Kinjekitile's medicine were told that the "white man's' bullets" could not harm them. After initial battlefield successes, the Germans initiated a scorched earth policy that eventually starved southern Tanzania into submission.


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