History & Politics

Copper – an early currency

In the first few centuries AD, Iron-Age farmers spread into southern Africa and settled in Zambia, pushing nomadic hunters (San/Bushmen) into areas more difficult to cultivate.

Centuries of Lozi history

Records of the first Lozi king (or Litunga, as he is known) exist from the second half of the 17th century. The rich cultural heritage of this monarch-led people has survived almost intact until today.

The copper of the region was discovered early. By AD1000, copper ingots and crosses were made at Kansanshi, probably as a form of currency.

By around AD1500, groups were organising into chieftaincies and kingdoms – such as the Chewa in the east, the Lozi in the west and the Bemba and Lunda in the north. These kingdoms may have formed because of the need to control resources, as Muslim traders ventured into Africa's interior.

Trading in slaves

Shaped by foreign powers

Country outline of Zambia, by NordNordWest [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The unique butterfly shape of Zambia resulted from agreements struck between European powers and the treaties Rhodes' agents had made with African chiefs to create the BSAC-administered territory.

In the 17th century, Muslim traders were supplanted by Portuguese merchants, who dealt in gold, ivory and copper. These merchants also traded in slaves, drawing in local leaders to raid weaker tribes as a source of slave labourers.

The explorer, David Livingstone, journeyed through Zambia three times (between 1853 and 1873). He called on missionaries to come and help end the slave trade.

‘Scramble for Africa'

During the ‘scramble for Africa’ in the second half of the 19th century, the continent was divided up between European powers. The British granted control of Zambia to mining magnate Cecil Rhodes, who staked claims to the area for his British South Africa Company (BSAC).

In 1924, following increasing unrest, BSAC handed over the running of the country (known then as Northern Rhodesia) to the British government.

Independence to democracy

With the rise of African nationalism and parties such as the United National Independence Party (in 1958), elections were eventually held. Zambia became independent in 1964 with Kenneth Kaunda (‘KK’) as president.

KK struggled with severe economic problems throughout the 27 years of his rule, but encouraged local industry and introduced mass education.

Zambia now has a multi-party democracy. The most recent elections took place in September 2011, when Michael Sata was voted in as president. Mr Sata died while in office in 2014 and acting president Edgar Lungu led celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Zambia's independence