The Hadza and Sandawe hunter-gatherers of Tanzania are believed to be the indigenous inhabitants of eastern Africa.
Southern Cushitic speakers, who are descended from the Iraqw, Gorowa, and Burunge, were the first to migrate south from Ethiopia into Tanzania. According to linguistic evidence, there may have been two waves of Eastern Cushitic people entering Tanzania between 4,000 and 2,000 years ago, originating north of Lake Turkana.
Archaeological evidence suggests that between 2,900 and 2,400 years ago, Southern Nilotes, including the Datoog, migrated south from the present-day South Sudan/Ethiopia border area into central northern Tanzania.
These migrations occurred about the same time as the arrival in the Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika regions of the iron-making Mashariki Bantu from West Africa. They carried with them the west African planting culture as well as yams, which were their mainstay. Between 2,300 and 1,700 years ago, they moved out of these areas and throughout the remainder of Tanzania.
Eastern Nilotic peoples, such as the Maasai, are descendants of a more recent migration from what is now South Sudan, about 1,500 to 500 years ago.
Tanzanians have long been involved with the iron and steel industry. The Pare people were the primary producers of highly sought-after iron for those living in northeastern Tanzania’s mountainous areas. More than 1,500 years ago, the Haya people on Lake Victoria’s western banks developed a kind of high-heat blast furnace that enabled them to forge carbon steel at temperatures surpassing 1,820 °C (3,310 °F).
Since the first millennium A.D., travellers and traders from the Persian Gulf and India have frequented the east African coast. Some Swahili Coast residents practiced Islam as early as the eighth or ninth century A.D.
Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese navigator, visited Tanzania’s coast in 1498. In 1506, the Portuguese were able to gain control of the majority of the Southeast African coast. Omani Arabs drove the Portuguese out of Zanzibar in 1699.
In 1840, Omani Sultan Seyyid Said relocated his capital to Zanzibar City, claiming the coastal strip. Zanzibar became the center of the Arab slave trade at this period. Between 65 and 90 percent of the Arab-Swahili population of Zanzibar was enslaved. Tippu Tip, the grandson of an enslaved African, was one of the most notorious slave traffickers on the East African coast. Under the leadership of Msiri and Mirambo, the Nyamwezi slave merchants operated. “Figures reflect the exporting of 718,000 slaves from the Swahili coast throughout the 19th century, and the keeping of 769,000 on the coast,” Timothy Insoll writes.
Imperial Germany invaded and integrated the areas that are now Tanzania (excluding Zanzibar) into German East Africa in the late nineteenth century. Except for the Kionga Triangle, a tiny region in the southeast that was integrated into Portuguese East Africa, the area was declared a British Mandate by post–World War I agreements and the League of Nations charter (later Mozambique).
During World War II, approximately 100,000 Tanganyika residents joined the Allied troops, making up part of the 375,000 Africans that fought alongside them. During the East African Campaign, Tanganyikans served with the King’s African Rifles against the Italians in Somalia and Abyssinia, in Madagascar against the Vichy French during the Madagascar Campaign, and in Burma against the Japanese during the Burma Campaign. Tanganyika was a major supplier of food throughout the war, and its export earnings rose dramatically compared to the Great Depression’s pre-war years. However, increasing demand during the war resulted in higher commodity prices and severe inflation in the colony.
Julius Nyerere turned a political organization into the Tanganyika African National Union in 1954. (TANU). The primary goal of TANU was to obtain Tanganyika’s national sovereignty. A drive to recruit new members was started, and within a year, TANU had risen to become the country’s most powerful political party. Nyerere was appointed Minister of British-ruled Tanganyika in 1960 and remained Prime Minister after the country gained independence in 1961.
Although British authority ended on December 9, 1961, Tanganyika had a governor general who represented the British monarch for the first year of independence. Tanganyika became a democratic republic with an executive president on December 9, 1962.
On April 26, 1964, the island united with mainland Tanganyika after the Zanzibar Revolution toppled the Arab monarchy in neighboring Zanzibar, which had gained independence in 1963. The nation was renamed the United Republic of Tanzania on October 29, the same year (“Tan” comes from Tanganyika and “Zan” from Zanzibar). Many Zanzibaris (including those supportive to the revolution) were opposed to the merger of the two formerly independent territories, but it was approved by both the Nyerere administration and the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar due to similar political ideals and objectives.
After the Arusha Declaration, which formalized a commitment to socialism as well as Pan-Africanism, Nyerere’s first presidency shifted to the left in 1967. Banks and a number of major businesses were nationalized as a result of the announcement.
Tanzania was also allied with China, which funded and assisted in the construction of the 1,860-kilometer (1,160-mile) TAZARA Railway from Dar es Salaam to Zambia from 1970 to 1975. Nonetheless, Tanzania’s economy began to deteriorate in the late 1970s, as a result of a worldwide economic crisis impacting both developed and developing countries.
The government funded itself through borrowing from the International Monetary Fund and undertook some changes beginning in the mid-1980s. Tanzania’s gross domestic output per capita has increased since then, and poverty has decreased, according to a World Bank study.
Tanzania’s constitution was modified in 1992 to allow for the formation of numerous political parties. The governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi won 186 of the 232 elected seats in the National Assembly in Tanzania’s first multi-party elections in 1995, and Benjamin Mkapa was elected president.