Zimbabwe, country, Africa: Early History to British Control

Early History to British Control

There are a number of Iron Age sites in Zimbabwe, with artifacts dating from c.a.d. 180. These early cultures were supplanted by Bantu-speaking peoples, who migrated into the area after the 5th cent. The ruins at Great Zimbabwe date from the 11th to the 15th cent. In the early 16th cent., the Portuguese made contact with Shona-dominated states and developed a trade in gold and other items. During the 1830s, the Shona-speaking people were subjected to Ndebele invaders, who forced them to pay tribute. British and Boer traders and hunters moved into the area, and the London Missionary Society established a mission to the Ndebele in 1861.

In 1889 the British South Africa Company, organized by Cecil Rhodes, obtained a charter to promote commerce and colonization in the region. Leander Starr Jameson, an associate of Rhodes, led a column of South African and British pioneers deep into the interior, where they founded (1890) Fort Salisbury. Fighting in 1893 resulted in the defeat of the Ndebele and the takeover of their territory by Rhodes's company. Both the Ndebele and the Shona staged unsuccessful revolts against the British in 1896–97. The settlers pressed the company for political rights, and in 1914 the British government renewed the company's charter on the condition that self-government be granted to the settlers by 1924.

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