views updated May 14 2018

Zanzibar Island region of Tanzania, in the Indian Ocean, off the e coast of Africa; the capital is Zanzibar. The first European discovery was by Vasco da Gama in 1499, and the Portuguese quickly established colonial rule. In the late 17th century, it came under the control of the Omani Arabs, who developed into the major centre of the East African ivory and slave trade. The slave trade halted in 1873, and in 1890 the Sultanate of Zanzibar became a British Protectorate. In 1963, it became an independent state and a member of the Commonwealth. Tension between the Arab ruling class and indigenous Africans (the majority of the population) led to the overthrow of the Sultanate. In 1964, Zanzibar and Tanganyika merged to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Zanzibar retained control over domestic affairs. During the 1980s and 1990s, conflict developed between secessionist and mainland centralist forces. In 1993, a regional parliament for Zanzibar was established. Violence erupted on the islands after 2000 elections. The two largest population groups are the Hadimu and Tumbatu. The major religion is Sunni Muslim, and the main language is Swahili. The chief export is cloves, and the biggest industry is fishing. Area: 1660sq km (641sq mi). Pop. (2002 est.) 934,400 (with Pemba).


views updated May 18 2018


Islands and coastal land in East Africa.

From the tenth century, many Arabs emigrated to Zanzibar, the 640-square-mile (1,658 sq. km) island of that name (also neighboring islands and the adjacent coast of East Africa). In 1698 Oman seized Zanzibar from the Portuguese, and in 1841 Oman's ruler, Shaykh Sayyid Saʿid, permanently moved his capital there from Muscat. Wealthy Omanis established an extensive plantation economy centered on clove production using African slave labor. After Saʿid's death in 1856, contention between his sons led to Britain's Canning Award (1861), splitting Oman and Zanzibar into separate sultanates. The latter declined, partly because of British suppression of the slave trade in 1873, and became a British protectorate in 1890.

Following Zanzibar's independence (1963) and union with Tanganyika (1964), the Arab population was severely mistreated by the Africans. Several thousand emigrated, mostly to the capital area of Muscat in Oman, after the accession of Sultan Qabus in 1970. In Zanzibar in 2000 and 2001, political tensions and violence followed elections that observers denounced as irregular. The major political parties signed an agreement in October 2001 calling for electoral reforms.


Bennett, Norman R. A History of the Arab State of Zanzibar. London: Methuen, 1978.

malcolm c. peck


views updated May 21 2018

Zanzibar. Former British protectorate. Britain first became involved in Zanzibar in the 19th cent. because the island was one of the main depots for the export of east African slaves. A succession of able British consuls-general exerted an informal protectorate over the island, and the arrangement was regularized in 1890 when Britain became responsible for the administration of Zanzibar and the adjacent islands on the sultan's behalf. The slave trade was formally abolished in the sultan's dominions in 1897. The export of cloves succeeded the slave trade as the protectorate's main source of income. Zanzibar became independent in 1963 and joined with Tanganyika to form Tanzania in 1964.

Kenneth Ingham