Sultanate of Zanzibar

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Sultanate of Zanzibar
سلطنة زنجبار
Protectorate of the United Kingdom



Capital Stone Town
Languages Swahili, Arabic, English
Religion Islam[1]
Government Absolute monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
 -  1856–1870 Majid bin Said (first)
 -  1963–1964 Jamshid bin Abdullah (last)
Chief Minister
 -  1961 Geoffrey Lawrence
 -  1961–1964 Muhammad Hamadi
 -  Established 19 October 1856
 -  Disestablished 12 January 1964
 -  1964 2,650 km² (1,023 sq mi)
 -  1964 est. 300,000 
     Density 113.2 /km²  (293.2 /sq mi)
Currency Ryal[2]

The Sultanate of Zanzibar (Arabic: سلطنة زنجبار‎), also known as the Zanzibar Sultanate,[1] was a country and protectorate of the United Kingdom that existed on the Zanzibar Archipelago of the Swahili Coast between 1856 and 1964. It also controlled areas in what is now the eastern coast of Tanzania, of which it became a constituent part in 1964 after the unification of Zanzibar and Tanganyika.


In 1698, Zanzibar became part of the overseas holdings of Oman after Saif bin Sultan, the Imam of Oman, defeated the Portuguese in Mombasa, in what is now Kenya. In 1832,[3] or 1840[4] (the date varies among sources), Omani ruler Said bin Sultan moved his court from Muscat to Stone Town on the island of Unguja. He established a ruling Arab elite and encouraged the development of clove plantations, using the island's slave labour.[5] Zanzibar's commerce fell increasingly into the hands of traders from the Indian subcontinent, whom Said encouraged to settle on the island. After his death in 1856, two of his sons, Majid bin Said and Thuwaini bin Said, struggled over the succession, so Zanzibar and Oman were divided into two separate realms. Thuwaini became the Sultan of Muscat and Oman while Majid became the first Sultan of Zanzibar, but obliged to pay an annual tribute to the Omani court in Muscat.[6][7] During his 14-year reign as Sultan, Majid consolidated his power around the local slave trade. His successor, Barghash bin Said, helped abolish the slave trade in Zanzibar and largely developed the country's infrastructure.[8] The third Sultan, Khalifa bin Said, also furthered the country's progress toward abolishing slavery.[9]

Loss of the mainland domains[edit]

Until 1884, the Sultans of Zanzibar controlled a substantial portion of the Swahili Coast, known as Zanj, and trading routes extending further into the continent, as far as Kindu on the Congo River. That year however, the Society for German Colonization forced local chiefs on the mainland to agree to German protection, prompting Sultan Bargash bin Said to protest. Coinciding with the Berlin Conference and the Scramble for Africa, further German interest in the area was soon shown in 1885 by the arrival of the newly created German East Africa Company, which had a mission to colonize the area.

In 1886, the British and Germans secretly met and discussed their aims of expansion in the African Great Lakes, with spheres of influence already agreed upon the year before, with the British taking what would become Kenya and the Germans present-day Tanzania. Both powers leased coastal territory from Zanzibar and established trading stations and outposts. Over the next few years, all of the mainland possessions of Zanzibar were taken by European imperial powers, beginning in 1888 when the Imperial British East Africa Company took over administration of Mombasa.[10] The same year the German East Africa Company acquired formal direct rule over the coastal area previously submitted to German protection. This resulted in a native uprising, the Abushiri Revolt, which was crushed by a joint Anglo-German naval operation which heralded the end of Zanzibar's influence on the mainland.

Island of Unguja and the African mainland

British suzerainty[edit]

With the signing of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty between the United Kingdom and the German Empire in 1890, Zanzibar itself became a British protectorate.[11] In August 1896, Britain and Zanzibar fought a 38-minute war, the shortest in recorded history, following the death of Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini. A struggle for succession took place as the Sultan's cousin Khalid bin Barghash seized power. The British instead wanted Hamoud bin Mohammed to become Sultan, believing that he would be much easier to work with. The British gave Khalid an hour to vacate the Sultan's palace in Stone Town. Khalid failed to do so, and instead assembled an army of 2,800 men to fight the British. The British launched an attack on the palace and other locations around the city after which Khalid retreated and later went into exile. Hamoud was then peacefully installed as Sultan.[12]

In December 1963, Zanzibar was granted independence by the United Kingdom and became a constitutional monarchy.[13] Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah was overthrown a month later during the Zanzibar Revolution.[14] Jamshid fled into exile, and the Sultanate was replaced by the People's Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba. In April 1964, this short-lived communist republic was united with Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which became known as Tanzania six months later.[4]


By 1964, the country was a constitutional monarchy ruled by Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah.[15] Zanzibar had a population of around 230,000 natives, some of whom claimed Persian ancestry and were known locally as Shirazis.[16] It also contained significant minorities in the 50,000 Arabs and 20,000 South Asians who were prominent in business and trade.[16] The various ethnic groups were becoming mixed and the distinctions between them had blurred;[15] according to one historian, an important reason for the general support for Sultan Jamshid was his family's ethnic diversity.[15] However, the island's Arab inhabitants, as the major landowners, were generally wealthier than the natives;[17] the major political parties were organised largely along ethnic lines, with Arabs dominating the Zanzibar Nationalist Party (ZNP) and natives the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP).[15]

See also[edit]

Part of a series on the
History of Oman
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  1. ^ a b Gascoigne, Bamber (2001-Ongoing). "HISTORY OF ZANZIBAR". HistoryWorld. Retrieved 2012-05-23.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ "Coins of Zanzibar". Retrieved 2012-05-23.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  3. ^ Ingrams 1967, p. 162
  4. ^ a b Appiah & Gates 1999, p. 2045
  5. ^ Ingrams 1967, p. 163
  6. ^ "Background Note: Oman". U.S Department of State - Diplomacy in Action. 
  7. ^ Ingrams 1967, pp. 163–164
  8. ^ Michler 2007, p. 37
  9. ^ Ingrams 1967, p. 172
  10. ^ British East Africa, by Grant Sinclair
  11. ^ Ingrams 1967, pp. 172–173
  12. ^ Michler 2007, p. 31
  13. ^ United States Department of State 1975, p. 986
  14. ^ Ayany 1970, p. 122
  15. ^ a b c d Shillington 2005, p. 1716
  16. ^ a b Speller 2007, p. 4
  17. ^ Parsons 2003, p. 106


External links[edit]