Colonialism and underdevelopment in Unyanyembe 1900-1960.

No Thumbnail Available
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Dar es Salaam
Unyanyembe, the central, largest and most populous chiefdom of Unyamwezi since the 1840s, seems to have dominated economic activity in Western Tanganyika in the 19th and 20th Centuries except for a short period in the 1860s and 1870s when it was temporarily challenged by Urambo in the wake of Mirambo's successful military campaigns. Up to the late 1880s economic activity in Unyanyembe was Zanzibar oriented based on a continuous injection of mercantile capital that had started as early as the 1840s. After the 188Cs, Economic activity becomes a factor of colonial domination. The effects of these two was to mould an increasingly dependent economy. This thesis attempts to analyse the effects of colonial rule in Unyanyembe between 1900 - 1960 in the light of a current approach to the study of African economic history based on an examination of the effects of African integration into the world economy at the level of nations and region within nations that were once under colonial rule. This approach finds its relevance in Unyanyembe at the two levels of labour supply and food production and these in turn facilitated through communication systems and deliberate colonial policies. While this work seeks to demonstrate that the colonial impact on Unyanyembe at the levels of food production and labour supply was the dominant cause of the underdevelopment of the area, it does not deny the possibility of a pre-colonial base of underdevelopment. More specifically however, this is an endeavour to suggest that both the colonial and pre-colonial aspects of underdevelopment were part and parcel of an economy which was being decisively moulded by external pressures.The Nyanyembe experience through the period under discussion is summed up in the thesis in five interelated points. First it was an experience of an inflow of new commodities hitherto unknown in the area; an inflow which had started during the days of the Arabs and continued through the colonial period. Second human activity in Unyanyembe was progressively being controlled by external factors. Third, the external force endowed with superior organisation of capital, industrial technology and money markets, managed to progressively reduce Nyanyembe capacity for technological growth and innovation displayed earlier in the form of handcraft, including weaving of cloth, baskets and mats, the making of pots and general wood work. The fourth experience was the extension of political control as a necessary measure to secure the continuity of the established economic relationship which in turn gave birth to an economic structure armed with the necessary apparatuses to serve the interests of the external force. Finally Unyanyembe was systematically loosing control over the economy, a situation which finally spelled condition of dependency and eventual inability to reverse the trend. The study of the economic history of colonial Unyanyembe is a study of underdevelopment, yet the study of the underdevelopment of the third world is still at a youthful if not a rudimentary stage. It is hoped that by a thorough and detailed assessment of what was happening in colonial Unyanyembe, certain generalisation that might give a deeper perspective to this new field of study can be reached. The first chapter gives the background to the colonization economic life in the face of the growing Zanzibar oriented trade. The second chapter attempts to present the early colonial period as being instrumental in causing a crisis in production. The crisis was going on hand in hand with an injection of railway technology, the effects of which are discussed in chapter three. The fourth chapter, exposes the practice of colonial techniques of exploitation particulary in the field of agriculture in the inter war period. The last chapter is an analysis of the post war process of underdevelopment with economic activities at all levels reflecting the needs of the motropole an assessment of the process of development of underdevelopment in Unyanyembe. Much of the work is based on material collected from Tanzania National Archives and field interviews conducted between December 1974 and February 1975. The early section which deals with the pre-colonial and early colonial periods is based on secondary material and a few oral sources.
History, Unyanyembe, Tanganyika (chiefdom), Tanzania
Salaita, J. (1975). Colonialism and underdevelopment in Unyanyembe 1900-1960. Masters dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam. Available at (