Before 1900 communities in present-day Tanzania were largely self-sufficient. There were many tribes, headed by chiefs, who taxed the people and in return provided protection and leadership. Chieftainship was often associated with economically useful skills: iron working, weather forecasting, or special skills in hunting. The areas where it was easiest to produce food surpluses were in the mountains, but in other areas it was possible to prosper through the keeping of cattle, or through trade, including exports of ivory and increasingly of slaves, and imports of guns and textiles, or from plunder. The local economies were not advanced compared with other parts of the world, but they were certainly not static, and those in mountain areas developed highly sophisticated irrigation systems. To develop further they needed a long period of non-exploitative contact with the rest of the world—which was exactly what they did not get.
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