In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Tanzania (Tanganyika and Zanzibar)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Reference Works
  • Journals
  • Language
  • Literature
  • Art

African Studies Tanzania (Tanganyika and Zanzibar)
Gregory H. Maddox
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 August 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0040


The modern nation of Tanzania formed in 1964 when the mainland country of Tanganyika merged with more newly independent island nation of Zanzibar in the aftermath of a revolution that overthrew the sultan of Zanzibar. Both nations had recently won their independence from Britain. The country lies in East Africa and occupies a total area of 947,300 square kilometers, including the Indian Ocean islands of Unguja, Pemba, and Mafia. In 2011, its estimated population was forty-two million, of whom somewhat more than one million lived in the islands of Zanzibar. Although the present boundaries of the country result from the colonial partition of Africa in the late 19th century and encompass groups speaking more than 120 different languages, the peoples of what would become Tanzania have long been linked together by ties of commerce, religion, and even language. Julius Nyerere guided the mainland to independence and subsequently adopted a populist-socialist stance known as ujamaa (Swahili for “familyhood”), which he defined as African socialism under the leadership of a single party. In 1964, Zanzibar gained independence under the sultan, with an Arab-dominated government. The Zanzibar revolution toppled the sultan and unleashed massacres against Arabs and Indians, and with grave international concerns about the stability of the country, Nyerere moved with the leader of the government, Abeid Karume, to form the United Republic of Tanzania, which made Zanzibar an autonomous part of the union. In the 1960s and 1970s Tanzania became a progressive darling and one of the largest aid recipients on the continent, receiving support from both sides of the Cold War as well as from China. By the late 1970s, though, the country faced a severe economic crisis. After several years of negotiations, Nyerere retired from the presidency, and the new president, Ali Hasan Mwinyi, a Zanzibari, liberalized the economy and politics in 1992 with the formation of legal opposition parties. Although the ruling party has continued to win elections and established a rule limiting presidents to two five-year terms, the country has also seen a widening gap between rich and poor in the liberalized economy, and the emergence of a host of social problems—from high rates of HIV infection to the inadequacy of its infrastructure—that have generated increasing political tension. Despite the country’s relative success in building a nation united by language and culture, it remains poor and fragile.

General Overviews

Tanzania is blessed with a number of good general studies. Most, such as Bienen 1970, do not extend beyond the era of ujamaa. Listowel 1965 provides an account of the end of the colonial era. Iliffe 1979 is the best overview for Tanganyika (mainland Tanzania), but Kimambo and Temu 1969 and Kaniki 1980 provide important case studies. The CIA World Factbook is a good source of basic information.

  • Bienen, Henry. Tanzania: Party Transformation and Economic Development. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970.

    Tanzania in the 1960s was home to ujamaa, a much-lauded experiment in humanistic, populist socialism. Bienen’s study is perhaps the best of that decade. He emphasizes the representative nature of single-party rule in Tanzania.

  • Central Intelligence Agency. Tanzania. In The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.

    DOI: 10.1097/QAI.0b013e31824fc06e

    This website is a comprehensive source for basic information, including demographic and political situations.

  • Iliffe, John. A Modern History of Tanganyika. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511584114

    Iliffe, a prolific and insightful historian, has produced one of the best one-volume histories of any African country. Although focused on the mainland, it does include some information on Zanzibar.

  • Kaniki, M., ed. Tanzania under Colonial Rule. London: Addison-Wesley Longman, 1980.

    A collection of essays on various topics on the mainland and Zanzibar, it is comprehensive, with essays by both Tanzanian and foreign scholars.

  • Kimambo, Isaria N., and A. J. Temu, eds. A History of Tanzania. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press for the Historical Association of Tanzania, 1969.

    A pioneering work of the Nationalist School of Tanzanian history, this volume contains contributions from some of the most important historians working in Africa in the 1960s.

  • Listowel, Judith Márffy-Mantuano. The Making of Tanganyika. New York: London House & Maxwell, 1965.

    This volume focuses on the transition to independence and is rather dated, but it does contain a useful summary of the situation on the mainland at the time.

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