Zambia History

Zambia History and Society


Present-day Zambia was originally populated by hunter-gatherer Khoisan tribes, who were displaced some two thousand years ago by more technologically advanced migratory peoples. Likewise, from the twelfth century, the great Bantu migration began that would populate a large part of the continent.

Among those peoples were the Tonga (also called Batonga) who were the first to settle in Zambia. The Nkoya probably arrived even earlier, settling in the territory from the northern Luba-Lunda reigns.

Other groups continued to arrive, with a great influx between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. This immigration came from the Luba and Lunda originating from the current Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Angola. Throughout the 19th century the Nguni arrived from the south, as a consequence of the Mfecane.

European colonization

At the time of the British invasion of the area, the most powerful state in Zambia was that of the Lozi, who under the authority of Chief Lewanika openly requested British protection.

King Lozi and a representative of the British South African Company signed a protection treaty in 1889. Harry Johnston added eastern Zambia to the British Empire during his conquest of Nyasaland (now Malawi) and a regular British resident was sent to Lewanika in 1897. Three years later, the British government assumed jurisdiction over the entire area.

The British government of Zambia (called then Northern Rhodesia) was similar to those of the rest of the African territories, constituted by a minimum central executive authority of Europeans who presided over a governor; the indirect system of government allowed local rulers great freedom.

From 1915 there was an important event, the discovery of copper in the north, which led to the expansion of the railway and the construction of the first foundries in the so-called Copperbelt.

By the beginning of World War II, Zambia had become a major copper producer ; the urbanization of the north began at that time. The copper industry brought European technicians and administrators to Zambia and, although they never gained the political control that Europeans had in Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), they became a dominant force in Zambian life.

In 1953, under pressure from the white minority of Southern Rhodesia, the British government forced the creation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. It was dominated by the white population of the territories and the central government, headed by Lord Malvern and Sir Roy Welensky, was a reflection of the politics of Southern Rhodesia.

The federation was condemned from its birth by all the African politicians in the country. The road to independence was more arduous for Zambia than for other British African territories, because the federation had to be dissolved beforehand. Malawi succeeded thanks to pressure from Zambian nationalists, led by Kenneth Kaunda.


The federation was dissolved at the end of 1963. Nyasaland became independent under the name of Malawi in July of 1964, and Northern Rhodesia to Zambia in October of 1964. Kaunda’s party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP), won the elections from the outset.

In 1972 Zambia became a one-party state, but its leadership remained moderate and pro-Western. Some private lands were nationalized in 1975 as part of a failed agricultural expansion program. The completion in 1976 of the rail connection with Dar es-Salaam, in Tanzania, freed Zambia from its dependence on the line controlled by Rhodesia and South Africa for the transport of its copper.

Social development


According to Healthinclude, school attendance has increased markedly since Zambia’s independence in 1964. The literacy rate is 82.2% of adults. In 2000, 1,589,544 students were studying in primary schools; schooling in secondary education is 28% of those of legal age and in higher education 2%. The University of Zambia was founded in 1965 in Lusaka.


The culture of Zambia is the traditional one of the Bantu people, with European influence. Before the founding of the current country, the population lived in independent tribes, each with a different way of life and management. One of the results of the colonial era was the growth of urban areas, so that diverse ethnic groups converged and began to live together in towns and cities, influencing each other and adopting a certain European culture, creating the so-called “Zambian Culture”


Most of Zambian traditional music is based on percussion, mainly with drums accompanied by much singing and dancing. In urban areas, foreign music genres, such as Congolese Soukous, Jamaican reggae, and African-American music are heard continuously. In the 70s, local psychedelic rock artists appeared, creating a genre known as Zamrock, some of the best known groups are: The Witch, The Peace or Amanaz & Chrissy Zebby Tembo.


The traditional arts are evident in ceramics, basketry, textiles, carpets, wood and ivory carvings, wire and copper crafts, etc.


The basic Zambian diet is based on corn, usually eaten in the form of a thick soup called Nshima (word Nyanja), prepared with cornmeal and accompanied by vegetables, beans, meat, fish or sour milk depending on the place. Nshima is also prepared from cassava.


Nshima, a thick dough or porridge usually made from cornmeal, is the staple of the diet.

Breakfast consists of bread or nshima and tea or coffee. Zambians in rural areas often eat sweet potatoes and peanuts.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are relatively abundant during the rainy season and in the months that follow.

Beer consumption is high and many rural residents produce their own despite the availability of bottled beer.


The tradition is still highly visible through the country’s annual traditional ceremonies. Some of the best known are those held in the festivals of Kuomboka and Kathanga (western province), Mutomboko (Luapula province), Ncwala (eastern province), Lwiindi and Shimunenga (in the southern province), Likumbi Lyamize (northwest), Chibwela Kumushi (central) and Ukusefya Pa Ng’wena (northern province).


About 72% of the population of Zambia is Christian, mostly Catholic and of the United Church of Zambia, a Protestant branch. Approximately 27% practice indigenous religions and the remaining 1% are made up of Muslims and Hindus.


The English is the official language. Ichibemba, luapula, chinyanja, chitonga, silozi, kikaonde, lunda, lovale are also spoken, there are about 70 indigenous languages.

Zambia History

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