7. East Africa

The island of Zanzibar was ruled by the Arab Sultan of Muscat and Oman and it dominated trade between Africa, India and the Middle East, including ivory, gold, spices and a large slave trade. The Sultan’s influence stretched over a large area of the East African coast and far into the hinterland. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Sultan and the British East India Company had close trade ties and the British state actively protected the Sultan’s interests on land and sea. Late in the nineteenth century, German interest in establishing an African empire caused the region to be split into spheres of influence with Britain.

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1841 The Sultan transfers his court to Zanzibar, which remains the supreme base for traders in slaves and ivory who operate across the entire region of eastern Africa and far into the interior. The East India Company and Indian merchants gain access to East African markets and supplies.

1873 Britain, at the instigation of missionaries in East/Central Africa, insists that the Sultan bans slavery.

1886 The Anglo-German Agreement defines spheres of interest in East Africa outside a 10 mile coastal strip where Zanzibar still maintains sovereignty. Germany takes the southern portion.

1890 Zanzibar becomes a British Protectorate as part of the terms of the Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty.

1896 The Royal Navy bombards the palace until the person claiming to be the new Sultan surrenders in less than an hour. The shortest war in history.

1963 The Sultanate of Zanzibar regains independence.

1964 The Sultan is overthrown, a republic is declared and Zanzibar unites with Tanganyika to form the new state of Tanzania.


1885 Germany declares this area of East Africa a protectorate

1890 Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty outlines the border between German East Africa and the British East African Protectorate from the sea to Lake Victoria.

1914-18 A small German guerrilla force holds down a much larger British imperial forces in East/Central Africa.

1919 German East Africa is divided – the mandate to govern Rwanda-Urundi in the NW is awarded to Belgium and Britain takes the rest and named it Tanganyika, apart from a small area which is returned to Portuguese Mozambique.

1961 Tanganyika becomes independent.

1964 Tanganyika and Zanzibar merge to form the new state of Tanzania.


1888 The Imperial British East Africa Company is set up centred on Mombasa, following the German assumption of protection for Tanganyika.

1893 The administration of British East Africa is handed over to the British government.

1894/5 The vast territory is divided into the Uganda Protectorate and the East Africa Protectorate (later Kenya).

1920 Kenya, less a slim coastal strip which remains a British protectorate under nominal rule of Zanzibar, becomes a Crown colony, but government resists claims from white settlers that it become self-governing.

1952 The Mau Mau rebellion begins and continues until 1956.

Princess Elizabeth becomes Queen Elizabeth II whilst she and her husband are visiting Kenya.

1963 the colony and the Protectorate of Kenya become a single independent state.


1892 Various trade and religious factions resort to violence and the British East Africa Company relinquishes control.

1894 The British government takes control and declares Uganda a protectorate.

1903 The Mombasa –Lake Victoria railway is completed with considerable numbers of Indian labourers.

1962 Uganda becomes an independent state.

1972 President Idi Amin expels 55,000 Asian residents at short notice. 28,000 are re-homed in the UK.

The Somaliland Protectorate.

Late in the nineteenth century Britain signed a series of agreements with native rulers in the north coastal region of the Horn of Africa facing the Gulf of Aden which established the British Protectorate of Somalia. It was garrisoned from Aden and administered from India. The main attraction of the fairly barren land was to secure its strategic position on the gulf from occupation by other European powers. It was also useful in the ongoing struggle against Arabian slave trafficking and became a supplier of meat for the Aden garrison.

1891 Beginning of the decade long ‘Dervish Uprising’ led by the ‘Mad Mullah’, which provokes repeated military expeditions.

1921 the ‘Mad Mullah’ and his insurgents are finally quelled.

1940/1 Italian troops briefly take over British Somaliland before being ejected.

1941 Britain administers neighbouring Eritrea after defeating Italian forces there.

1950 Britain relinquishes administration of Eritrea to Ethiopia.

1960 British Somaliland becomes independent and merges with the erstwhile Italian Somaliland to form the new Somali Democratic Republic.

1991 After a civil war the former area of British Somaliland declares independence. However, the new state does not receive any international recognition.


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