V. The Modern Period, 1789–1914 > G. Africa, 1795–1917 > 3. Regions > d. East Africa
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1800)
d. East Africa
1. Swahili Coast and Hinterland
Nyamwezi people from the Tanganyikan interior established a long-distance caravan trade to the Swahili coast, trading ivory for beads and cloth. Omani authority on the Swahili coast was significant only in Mombassa, Zanzibar, and Kilwa; other towns were dominated by local rulers.  1
Increased long-distance trade initiated change in interior societies, with rise of wealthy traders known as “BIG MEN” who used their wealth to attract followers. Regional cultural practices developed, and there was intermarriage among groups. Coastal towns became bigger and more ethnically mixed. Plantation and domestic slavery grew at the coast. Slave concubinage led to a cultural mix of African and Arab. Trade led to the spread of Islam and the Kiswahili language in the interior.  2
Sayyid Sa’id bin Sultan ascended to the Omani throne.  3
Adballah ben Ahmad al-Mazrui, governor of Mombassa, declared Mombassa independent.  4
Sayyid Sa’id moved to reestablish Omani dominance of Swahili towns, displacing the Mazruis (1822–37) in Lamu, Pemba, and Mombassa.  5
c. 1818
Cloves were introduced into Zanzibar.  6
Hamid ben Ahmad al-Busaidi, sent by Sayyid Sa’id, compelled Barawam Lamu, Pate, and Pemba to acknowledge Omani suzerainty.  7
Sayyid Sa’id visited his domains in East Africa.  8
EXPANSION OF IVORY AND SLAVE TRADE drew East Africa into the capitalist world economic system before the dawn of colonial rule. By the 1870s, most of the East African interior was integrated into the international trade network through Zanzibar. Swahili-Arab traders began to trade in the interior for ivory and slaves. Slaves were sought for foreign trade and for clove and other plantations on islands and the coast, while cloth, copper, beads, and guns were traded in the interior. Ivory trade thrived with the Nyamwezi in the central region, while wars encouraged slave trade in the southern region. Interior peoples, especially the Nyamwezi, Kamba, and Shambaa, took an active role in long-distance trade as porters to the coast. Ivory and slave trades also stimulated interregional trade in the interior, especially of iron and salt. The slave trade caused great disruption among interior peoples but brought wealth to groups acting as raiders and traders. Villages became more compact for defense purposes. Swahili-Arab traders influenced styles of dress and introduced imported goods. Guns were common by 1860. Rectangular building styles spread inward from the coast. Trade led to a mixing of ethnic groups at the coast and at interior trading centers. Involvement in trade also led to the emergence of “big men” who amassed followers on the basis of new wealth, unconnected to traditional sources of authority such as religion. Coastal trade also influenced a shift in the interior to societies based more on military power than on religious authority.  9
Sayyid Sa’id moved the Omani capital to Zanzibar and began to reorient the Swahili trading economy toward exports.  10
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.