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Zanzibar (to 1890)

Last modified: 2015-05-24 by bruce berry
Keywords: zanzibar | oman | helgoland |
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Omani rule

[Flag of Oman, pre 1976] image by Joan-Francés Blanc, 11 May 1998

In historical times, the island of Zanzibar, famous for its trade in spices and slaves, was part of the Sultanate of Oman, as was much of the East African coast. Oman flew a plain red flag. This continued in use after the Sultan Sayyid transferred his seat of government to Zanzibar in 1840.
Stuart Notholt, 29 Jun 1996

German protectorate

In 1884 Bismark claimed protectorate status over Zanzibar and its mainland satellite Witu, but the Germans weren’t that interested in either and transferred their suzerainty to Britain in 1890. This was part of the (in)famous ’Scramble for Africa’ – in return for limiting their aspirations in East Africa, the Germans gained Heligoland, the North Sea island which the British had held since Napoleonic times.
Stuart Notholt, 29 Jun 1996

The text is incorrect.
First, Germany's (indirect) claim on sections of the mainland coast of  East Africa was established in a treaty with Britain in 1885 (not in 1884); at that time both the British and the Germans respected the independence of the Sultanate of Zanzibar. When the German administration in places on the mainland coast, established in accordance with the Sultan (a treaty had been signed) met the determined resistance of the population, the British and Germans blockaded the coast, in the name of the Sultan. What has happened in 1890 was that the Germans ceded their claim over Witu and recognized the (new) establishment of a British protectorate over the (hitherto independent) Sultanate of Zanzibar. The idea of Germany 'ceding' Zanzibar in 1890 is a rather popular misconception in colonial history.
Alexander Ganse, 26 Jul 2001