- A small island off the coast of Africa. The first European to visit Zanzibar was the Portuguese navigator Vasco de Gama in 1499; by 1503, the Portuguese had gained control of Zanzibar, and soon they held most of the East African coast. In 1698, Arabs from Oman ousted the Portuguese from Zanzibar. The Omanis gained nominal control of the islands, but until the reign of Sayyid Said (1804–1856), they took little interest in them. Said recognized the commercial value of East Africa and increasingly turned his attention to Zanzibar and Pemba, and in 1841 he permanently moved his court to Zanzibar.Said brought many Arabs with him, and they gained control of Zanzibar’s fertile soil, forcing most of the Hadimu to migrate to the eastern part of the island. The Hadimu were also obligated to work on the clove plantations. Said controlled much of the East African coast, and Zanzibar became the main center of the East Africa ivory and slave trade. Some of the slaves were used on the clove plantations, and others were exported to other parts of Africa and overseas. Zanzibar’s trade was run by Omanis, who organized caravans into the interior of East Africa; the trade was largely financed by Indians resident on Zanzibar, many of whom were agents of Bombay firms.From the 1820s, British, German, and American traders were active on Zanzibar. As early as 1841, the representative of the British government on Zanzibar was an influential adviser of the sultan. This was especially the case under Sir John Kirk, the British consul from 1866 to 1887. In a treaty with Great Britain in 1873, sultan Barghash agreed to halt the slave trade in his realm. During the Scramble for Africa territory among European powers, Great Britain gained a protectorate over Zanzibar and Pemba by a treaty with Germany in 1890. The sultan’s mainland holdings were incorporated in German East Africa (later Tanganyika), British East Africa (later Kenya), and Italian Somaliland. The British considered Zanzibar an essentially Arab country and maintained the prevailing power structure. The office of sultan was retained, although stripped of most of its power; and Arabs, almost to the exclusion of other groups, were given opportunities for higher education and were recruited for bureaucratic posts. The chief government official from 1890 to 1913 was the British consul general, and from 1913 to 1963 it was the British resident.See also <
>.FURTHER READING:Bennett, Norman Robert. A History of the Arab State of Zanzibar. London: Methuen, 1978;Ingrams, William Harold. Zanzibar: Its History and Its People. London: Frank Cass, 1967.MOSHE TERDMAN
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.