Trade and Influence

Arabia traded with the East African coast since before the 1st century AD, and there are indications of ancient connections with India. The arrival of the Portuguese in the late 15th century and were based in the ancient town of Kilwa. French interest in the slave trade from 1776. To confirm the Moresby Treaty (Slavery) and other existing trading regulations, the U.S. (1836) and Britain (1840) established diplomatic relations with Zanzibar and posted their consuls there. France also posted a consul. Zanzibar was the first territory in tropical Africa to enjoy such relations.

If history is your forte then Tanzania is a dream destination. From Gold and Ivory, to Spices and Slaves, from Colonial to Independent, each foreign nation had its own influence on the area. From the "Swahili Coast", one has to only imagine the misery of those poor slaves, as you reverse the route that millions of captured souls from the interior had marched from freedom to captivity. From the ancient ports and forts on the coast you can follow by road most of the ancient slave routes to the very heart of Africa. Remnants and reminders of Colonial rule, first by the Germans and then the British. Beautiful colonial structures strangely out of place, huge old farming estates which, are reverting back to the wild.

There have also been some major battles fought in Tanzania. Some of the better well-known battles were between African and German and between German and English. What is referred to below is the history of a region that was to become the Tanzania of today.


Some of the oldest human settlements unearthed by archaeologists and fossils of early humans have been found in Tanzania. Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania has been referred to as "The Cradle of Mankind". The oldest known footprints of the immediate ancestors of humans, the Laetoli footprints, estimated to be about 3.6 million years old have also been found there.

Early history

Approximately 10,000 years ago Tanzania is believed to have been populated by hunter-gatherers similar to the Bushman of the Kalahari and who probably spoke Khoisan. There are remnants of these communities in the remote bushveld known as "Ndorobo".

The Cushitic-speaking people are believed to have migrated from the north approximately three to five thousand years ago. Cushitic peoples introduced basic techniques of agriculture, food production and later cattle farming.

It is believed that 2000 years ago the Bantu-speaking people began to arrive from western Africa in a series of migrations. These groups contributed to the development of the local population by bringing with their iron-working skills and unknown ideas of social and political organisation.

Later still, Nilotic pastoralists arrived, and this migration continued to the 18th century.

Arab influence

Around the early first Millennium and due to Indian Ocean trade, regular trade following the trade winds made the Coast economically strong. The Arab-centric doctrine of Islam had a strong Arabic influence. This entered the language and Swahili as a language emerged. Swahili is part of the Bantu family of languages but with Arabic influences. Between the 13th and 15th centuries, in a period known as the Shirazi Era, these cities flourished, with trade in ivory, gold and other goods extending as far away as India and China. The Swahili influence in turn was felt as far as Madagascar and westwards into the central interior. Famous names from the early days such as Ibn Battuta, a Berber from North Africa, reached Kilwa in the 1300's. The Portuguese arrived, through Vasco da Gama the first European, in 1498. Portuguese control lasted for about 200 years until in early 1700's the Arabs from Oman established a foothold.

European colonialism


After the Portuguese the next Europeans to actively influence Tanzania were the Germans. Tanganyika (1815-1886) was a German colony from the 1880s until 1919. Tanganyika as a geographical and political entity did not take shape before the period of colonialism; its name only came into use after German East Africa as it was known, was transferred to the United Kingdom as a mandate by the League of Nations in 1920. It then became a British Mandate from 1919 to 1961. Tanzania served as a military outpost during World War II and provided financial help as well as munitions.

The first European to see Mount Kilimanjaro was in 1848, It was the German missionary Johannes Rebmann. In 1858 Richard Burton and John Speke mapped Lake Tanganyika. In 1866 the Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone set out to seek the source of the Nile. After years of no contact with the outside world, Henry Stanley found Livingstone in the town of Ujiji, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in 1871 and the famous greeting of "Dr Livingstone, I presume?" was uttered.

In 1877 the Belgian expeditions arrived and in the course of these, in 1879, a station was founded in Kigoma on the eastern bank of Lake Tanganyika, soon to be followed by the station of Mpala on the opposite western bank. Both these stations were founded under the name of the Comite D'Etudes Du Haut Congo, later known as the Congo Free State. The fact that these stations had been established from the coast of Tanganyika led to East Africa being included into the territory of the Conventional Basin of the Congo, at the Berlin Conference of 1885. A popular misconception is the idea that Africa was partitioned in Berlin. This however is not true. At the conference in Berlin rules were established and agreed to amongst the colonial powers and prospective colonial powers on how to establish colonies and protectorates. Soon Belgian interest was concentrated on the Congo River. British and Germans focused on Eastern Africa. It was only after this in 1886 that mainland East Africa was partitioned between themselves.

The Sultanate of Zanzibar remained independent for the moment. The Congo Free State gave up its claim on Kigoma the oldest Belgian station in Central Africa and on any territory to the east of Lake Tanganyika to Germany.


Tanganyika, 1918-1939, British rule began when the Royal Navy occupied the island of Mafia in1914. Two years later in 1916, German East Africa was occupied. The German troops, commanded by the very able Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck continued to resist until the end of the war.

In 1920, the League of Nations granted the mandate to administrate the former German colony of German East Africa. The Supreme Council agreed to the United Kingdom transferring the provinces of the Northwest to Belgium. These would become known as Rwanda and Burundi. In The colony was renamed Tanganyika Territory in 1920. In 1921 the Belgians transferred the Kigoma district on the west bank of Lake Tanganyika, which they had administered since the occupation, to British administration. The United Kingdom and Belgium signed an agreement regarding the border between Tanganyika and Ruanda-Urundi (Rwanda and Burundi) in 1924.

British policy was to rule indirectly through African leaders. In 1926, a Legislative Council was established, which was to advise the governor. In 1928 the railway line Tabora-Mwanga was opened to traffic, the line from Moshi to Arusha in 1929. The British administration took measures to revive African institutions by encouraging limited local rule and authorised the formation in 1922 of political clubs such as the Tanganyika Territory African Civil Service Association. In 1926 some African members were unofficially admitted into the Legislative Council and in 1929 the Association became the Tanganyika African Association which would constitute the core of the nascent nationalist movement. In 1945 the first Africans were effectively appointed to the Governor's Legislative Council. In 1954, Julius Nyerere, a schoolteacher who was then one of only two Tanganyikans educated abroad at the university level, organised a political party. The Tanganyika African National Union (TANU). Julius Nyerere became Minister of British-administered Tanganyika in 1960 and continued as Prime Minister when Tanganyika became independent in 1961. Tanganyika and neighbouring Zanzibar, which had become independent in 1963, merged to form the nation of Tanzania on April 26, 1964. Nyerere introduced African socialism, or Ujamaa, which he believed emphasised justice and equality.