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History

East Africa to the 1870s

- 19th-Century Swahili Coast -

- Political Developments in Ethiopia -

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By the 19th century foreign powers dominated the East African coast, but in the inland regions indigenous Africans still largely controlled their own fates. The southern Arabian sultanate of Oman extended its influence to the northern Swahili coast in the 17th century, expelling the Portuguese from the Kenyan coast by 1700 and from the island of Zanzibar in 1729. To the south, along the Mozambique coast, the Portuguese remained the dominant trading power. This region supplied captives to meet the rising French demand for slave labor on sugar plantations on Mauritius and other French-held Indian Ocean islands.

In the interior, west of Lake Victoria, the lakeside kingdom of Buganda had grown to surpass Bunyoro, its older rival, in regional strength. To their south, Rwanda and Burundi had become powerful mountain kingdoms. The Nyamwezi people of the interior of present-day Tanzania were professional traders, carrying ivory between the lake kingdoms and the coast. Meanwhile, in the north, the Christian empire of Ethiopia continued to be a regional power in the highlands, while the Ottoman Empire controlled the coastal region of Eritrea.

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