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The British dominated the scene with their powerful consuls and their navy squadrons, which had been engaged in suppressing the slave trade since mid-century. Between 1870 and 1888, Barghash bin Said, the most powerful sultan in Zanzibar’s history, managed to tighten Omani control over the coastal towns. Omani power seemed unassailable, and Omani allies, such as Kirk and Mathews, were well known on the mainland, where they were given respect as representatives of one of the new ‘players’ on the East African scene.

21 German colonial ambitions in the region seemed a simple business—gain Omani and British support and domination of the coast would follow. Rule through the German East Africa Company with support from the Omani representatives on the coast presented what looked like a low cost solution, with relatively few requirements for military and bureaucratic personnel. This strategy, however, overestimated Omani power on the coast, which had been waning as British influence intensified. It also underestimated the growing disaffection and the intrigues brewing in the coastal towns and interior as ambitious players from all walks of life sought to challenge the 20 21 Glassman, Feasts and Riot, 80-81, 102-03.

Coastal resistance to Omani domination forced them to settle on the nearby island of Zanzibar where they gradually built up their trading empire. , 2002), 1-2. 10 Glassman, Feasts and Riot. the african context 25 island. The Omani military, commercial and diplomatic strength enabled them to claim customs duties from the coastal towns and to become the main conduit for this trade. 11 The Omani rulers sought to maintain their authority over coastal elites and the slave and ivory trade through the appointment of local representatives in the coastal towns.

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A7 Corsair II


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