You must be anxious to learn about Tanzania history in Africa. This page will guide you to all you need to know about the history of the Tanzanian people and their culture from time immemorial up to present day.
The East African nation of Tanzania dates formally only from 1964, when it was formed out of the union of the much larger mainland territory of Tanganyika and the coastal archipelago of Zanzibar.
The former was a colony and part of German East Africa from the 1880s to 1919, when, under the League of Nations, it became a British mandate until independence in 1961. It served as a military outpost during World War II, providing financial help, munitions, and soldiers.
Zanzibar was settled as a trading hub, subsequently controlled by the Portuguese, the Sultanate of Oman, and then as a British protectorate by the end of the nineteenth century.
Julius Nyerere would rule the country for decades and repress opposition. Years of socialism led to corruption on a massive scale and a collapse of the economy. Following Nyerere's retirement in 1985, various political and economic reforms began.
Prehistory Days of Current Tanzania
Tanzania is home to some of the oldest human settlements unearthed by archaeologists, including fossils of early humans found in and around Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania, an area often referred to as "The Cradle of Mankind". These fossils include Paranthropus bones thought to be over 2 million years old, and the oldest known footprints of the immediate ancestors of humans, the Laetoli footprints, estimated to be about 3.6 million years old.
Reaching back about 10,000 years, Tanzania is believed to have been populated by hunter-gatherer communities, probably Khoisan speaking people.
Between three and six thousand years ago, they were joined by Cushitic-speaking people who came from the north, into which the Khoisan peoples were slowly absorbed. Cushitic peoples introduced basic techniques of agriculture, food production, and later, cattle farming.
About 2000 years ago, Bantu-speaking people began to arrive from western Africa in a series of migrations. These groups brought and developed ironworking skills and new ideas of social and political organization.
They absorbed many of the Cushitic peoples who had preceded them, as well as most of the remaining Khoisan-speaking inhabitants. Later, Nilotic pastoralists arrived, and continued to immigrate into the area through to the 18th century.
The most remarkable of the tribes in Tanzania was the Nyamwezi, who, on nights when the moon did not appear, would sacrifice the village's youngest daughter in order to placate the lunar god, and urge him to return.
This tradition has since died out, as the europeans did not approve of the loss of innocent life, and slaughtered the Nyamwezi in order to avenge "the lost daughters" of the Mbogowolla valley.
Tanzania History and Early Tanzanian Coastal History
Travellers and merchants from the Persian Gulf and Western India have visited the East African coast since early in the first millennium CE, and especially the towns that arose all along the coasts of Kenya and Tanzania late in the millennium. But, contrary to conventional interpretations, scholars no longer believe that Arabs or Persians were significant in founding the towns.
Remains of those towns' material culture demonstrate that they arose from indigenous roots, not from foreign settlement. And the language that was spoken in them, Swahili (now Tanzania's national language), is a member of the Bantu language family that spread from the northern Kenya coast well before significant Arab presence was felt in the region.
By the beginning of the second millennium CE the Swahili towns conducted a thriving trade that linked Africans in the interior with trade partners throughout the Indian Ocean.
From c. 1200 to 1500 CE, the town of Kilwa, on Tanzania's southern coast, was perhaps the wealthiest and most powerful of these towns, presiding over what some scholars consider the "golden age" of Swahili civilization.
In the early 1300s Ibn Battuta, a Berber traveller from North Africa, visited Kilwa and proclaimed it one of the best cities in the world. Islam was practised on the Swahili coast as early as the eighth or ninth century CE.
In 1498 Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama became the first known European to reach the East African coast; he stayed for 32 days. In 1505 the Portuguese captured the island of Zanzibar. Portuguese control lasted until the early 18th century, when Arabs from Oman established a foothold in the region.
Assisted by Omani Arabs, the indigenous coastal dwellers succeeded in driving the Portuguese from the area north of the Ruvuma River by the early 18th century.
Claiming the coastal strip, Omani Sultan Seyyid Said moved his capital to Zanzibar City in 1840. He focused on the island and developed trade routes that stretched as far as Lake Tanganyika and Central Africa.
During this time, Zanzibar became the centre for the Arab slave trade. Due to the Arab and Persian domination at this later time, many Europeans misconstrued the nature of Swahili civilization as a product of Arab colonization.
However, this misunderstanding has begun to dissipate over the past 40 years as Swahili civilization is becoming recognized as principally African in origin.