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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

The Modern History of Mashonaland

The Modern History of Mashonaland.

The modern history of Mashonaland and Matabeleland dates from the reign of Umziligazi—the father of Lo Bengula, the present King of the Matabele—who, pressed by the Boers moving north, about the year 1840 overran Mashonaland and Matabeleland, conquering all the tribes in the highlands and ultimately settling and establishing the Matabele power in that section of the plateau now known as Matabeleland. Umziligazi attempted to carry out an extensive expedition north of the Zambesi, but unsuccessfully, On his return to Matabeleland he found that his eldest son, Kurilman, had been installed as king, the tribe believing Umziligazi dead. Kuruman was exiled and, it is believed, assassinated. In 1868 Umziligazi died and the heir, Lo Bengula, was invited but refused to reign; in 1870, however, he yielded to entreaty and was crowned king.

A graphic description of the recent history of Mashonaland is given by Mr. Selous ("Travel and Adventure in South-Easi Africa"), which accounts for the native tribes having abandoned some of their arts and industries and sunk into the spiritless people they are at this day. According to Mr. Selous:

These raids almost completely depopulated large tracts of country, and put an end to the gold-mining industry, which, there is no doubt, was still being carried on in the early part of this century. It also put a stop to the wall-building, as the Mashonas found out that the walls with which they had been accustomed to encircle their towns, and which were probably very often an effective means of defence against other tribes of their own race, were of little avail against the braver and better-organised Zulus. Thus the high plateau of Mashonaland, which at no very distant date must have supported a large native population, once more became an almost uninhabited wilderness, as the remnants of the aboriginal tribes who escaped destruction at the hands of the Zulu invaders retreated into the broken country which encircles the plateau to the south and east. Had it not been for the constant destruction of the page 53 native races that has been going on in Mashonaland during the last seventy or eighty years, there would be no room for European immigration to-day.