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Zimbabwe Timeline -- Part 1: Prehistory to UDI

A Chronology of Key Events in Zimbabwe

By Alistair Boddy-Evans, About.com

18,000 BP Stone Age settlements in region related to cave painting in the Matopos Hills.
500s Bantu speaking people migrate south into the region, displacing earlier iron-working communities.
c.1100 Great Zimbabwe, the center of a state based on cattle and gold is founded by the Karanga people.
c.1200 Origins of Monomotapa, a cattle and gold state neighboring, and eventually encompassing, Great Zimbabwe.
1400s Great Zimbabwe at its zenith because of gold mining and cattle. An estimated 18,000 people in vicinity of the city. Trade routes opened to the coast.
1450 Great Zimbabwe abandoned.
c.1550 Monomotapa reaching its zenith. Stretches from what was Great Zimbabwe to the Indian Ocean, trading cattle, gold and slaves.
1830s Ndebele peoples are pushed north by Zulu and Boer conflict in what is now South Africa. They move northwards and settle what is now known as Matabeleland. The Shona people are, in turn, displaced by invading Ndebele. The Shona are forced to pay tribute.
c.1840 First arrival of European hunters and traders. Followed rapidly by Missionaries.
1855 David Livingstone is the first European to reach the 100 metre (328 foot) waterfall on the Zambezi River. He gives it the name Victoria Falls. The local name was Musioa Tunya ('smoke that thunders').
1881 The Ndebele King Lobengula regroups his izinDuna in the face of British colonial forces.
29 October 1888 Cecil Rhodes is given a royal charter by Lord Salisbury to create the British South Africa Company (BSAC). The company is modeled on the East India Company and it is expected to annex and then administer territory in southern Africa, to act as a police force, and develop settlements for European settlers.
The British South Africa Company (BSAC) exploits its mandate from the British government by gaining access to minerals through rights and treaties obtained from the Ndebele king, Lobengula.
1889 British South Africa Company (BSAC) begins colonization of Matabeleland and region now known as Zimbabwe.
12 September 1890 The Pioneer Column, a volunteer force of white settlers organized by Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company (BSAC), raises the Union Jack in Mashonaland, and at a new settlement to be called Salisbury (now Harare, Zimbabwe). The fort and city are named for the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, the then British prime minister. The local Shangani people are dispossessed of their lands.
1893 Ndebele uprising against the British South Africa Company (BSAC) is soon brought to an end.
1895 The BSAC territory is named Rhodesia after Cecil Rhodes.
Four hundred men from the Matabeleland Mounted Police join the Jameson Raid.
1896-97 Shona and Ndebele revolt against British rule in region. The revolt is quashed. Cecil Rhodes rides into the Matopos Hills to negotiate a peace.
1897 Rhodesia divided into two parts, Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, and Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
26 March 1902 Death of Cecil Rhodes at the age of 48. He is buried in a tomb in the Matopos Hills.
1905 Completion of 200 metre (650 foot) iron bridge spanning the Zambezi river near to Victoria Falls, connecting Southern and Northern Rhodesia.
1911 Rhodesia is divided between northern (now Zambia) and southern (now Zimbabwe) parts.
8 April 1919 Birth of Ian Smith, premier of British Colony of Southern Rhodesia from 13 April 1964 to 11 November 1965, and then Prime Minister of the Republic of Rhodesia from 11 November 1965 to 1 June 1979 (after Unilateral Declaration of Independence).
1922 End of administration by the British South Africa Company administration. A referendum amongst white settlers in Southern Rhodesia votes to become a self-governing colony, rather than the alternative of uniting with South Africa.
1923 Southern Rhodesia becomes a self-governing colony of Britain.
21 February 1924 Birth of Robert Mugabe, member of the Shona people, in the British Colony of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
1930 Land Apportionment Act divides land between whites and blacks, with the best land being given to white settlers. Blacks are forced to seek wage labor to pay taxes. This marks the beginning of political opposition to colonial rule.
12 September 1933 Godfrey Martin Huggins becomes prime minister of Southern Rhodesia for the Federal Party.
5 March 1936 Birth of Canaan Sodindo Banana. Zimbabwe's first president, born in the Esiphezini Communal Area, Southern Rhodesia near Esigodin.
10 March 1952 Birth of Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, founder of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
African National Congress (ANC) founded by Joshua Nkomo, the colony's first black nationalist political party.
1953 Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), and Nyasaland (now Malawi) are joined as the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (otherwise known as the Central African Federation).
7 September 1953 Garfield Todd becomes prime minister of Southern Rhodesia for the United Rhodesian Party, URP, (becomes the United Federal Party, UFP, in 1957 when it merged with the Federal Party, FP).
17 February 1958 Edgar Whitehead becomes prime minister for the United Federal Party (UFP).
1960 National Democratic Party (NDP) formed by black nationalists.
1961 Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) founded by Joshua Nkomo.
1962 ZAPU banned as the segregationist White Settler Rhodesian Front (RF) wins white-only elections and takes control of the legislature.
17 December 1962 Winston Joseph Field becomes prime minister for the Rhodesian Front (RF).
1963 Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Central African Federation) is dissolved after campaigns by Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland nationalists. Northern Rhodesia gains independence as Zambia, Nyasaland gains independence as Malawi.
National Democratic Party splits with some joining Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union and others forming the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) under the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and Robert Mugabe.
13 April 1964 Ian Douglas Smith becomes prime minister for the Rhodesian Front (RF). He begins negotiations with Britain over independence (as a white settler state).
1964 Britain demands majority rule for (Southern) Rhodesia.
Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo jailed by Ian Smith's government after rivalry between competing black nationalist groups turns violent.
11 November 1965 With the re-election of the Rhodesian Front (RF), Prime Minister Ian Smith announces UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) from the UK. Amid international outrage, the British government imposes economic sanctions.

Zimbabwe Timeline
Part 2: UDI to One-Party State
Part 3: One-Party State to Leaving the Commonwealth
Part 4: Leaving the Commonwealth to Present Day

Related Topics
Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
Operation Murambatsvina
British South Africa Company (BSAC)
Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI)

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