...& John Kirk
By this time, on Zanzibar, Sultan Majid had died, aged 36. His only child was a daughter so his brother Barghash (who had twice already tried to seize the throne and had returned to Zanzibar from exile in India in 1861) finally succeeded to the throne, and was proclaimed sultan on 7 October 1870. In the same year, Dr John Kirk (who had originally come to Zanzibar as a medical officer on Livingstone's expedition) was made acting British consul.
After the hurricane of April 1872, Sultan Barghash had announced plans to grow new plantations, and the slave trade picked up once again. By late 1872 around 16,000 slaves had been imported into Zanzibar. (The hurricane hit only the southern tip of Pemba, leaving most of the clove trees on that island untouched. By the 1880s Pemba was producing about 80% of the total clove harvest from Zanzibar and Pemba.)
At the same time, the anti-slavery movement continued to grow, fuelled in America by the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin. In January 1873 Sir Bartle Frere, a special envoy from Queen Victoria, arrived in Zanzibar to negotiate a treaty which he hoped would finally put an end to the Arab slave trade. Sultan Barghash was naturally reluctant to end slavery and Frere sailed for England at the beginning of March 1873 without a treaty. Almost immediately the British navy began a blockade of every slave port on the mainland. The number of slaves passing through the Customs House in Zanzibar Town between January and March dropped to 21, compared with 4,000 in the same period the previous year.
In June 1873 Sir John Kirk informed Sultan Barghash that a total blockade of Zanzibar Island was imminent. Reluctantly Barghash signed the Anglo-Zanzibari treaty which provided for the complete abolition of the slave trade in Barghash's territories, the closing of all slave markets and the protection of all liberated slaves. Transport of slaves was forbidden, and slaves could no longer be exported from mainland Africa to Zanzibar and Pemba, except for domestic purposes.
The large slave market in Zanzibar Town was closed immediately. The site was bought by missionaries of the Universities Mission in Central Africa (UMCA), and work started on the cathedral which can still be seen in Zanzibar Town today (see that section of the guide).
One of the main effects of the treaty, now that slavery was illegal, was to push up the price of slaves and the trade continued in a clandestine manner. Through the 1870s smugglers were estimated to be exporting between 10,000 and 12,000 slaves a year.
In 1875 Kirk brought Sultan Barghash an official invitation to visit Britain to ratify the Anglo-Zanzibari treaty. In June the same year Barghash and Kirk arrived in London where Barghash received the Freedom of the City at the Guildhall and attended a state banquet at Mansion House. While Barghash was in London, his sister Salme had come from Germany (see the Princess Salme box, pages 164–5) hoping to be reconciled with her brother, but Barghash refused to meet her. After four weeks of intensive sightseeing and entertainment, Barghash and his party returned to Zanzibar via Paris and Marseilles, arriving home in September.
For the British, Zanzibar was no longer a distant, obscure island, and links between the two countries became even more firmly established. In 1869 the Suez Canal had opened, making the sea voyage between Britain and the coast of east Africa much shorter and simpler. In 1872 the British India Steamship Navigation Company started a monthly mail service between Zanzibar and Aden. It brought the first scheduled passenger and cargo service to Zanzibar, which allowed merchandise to be exported quickly. Communication was again improved in 1879, when the Eastern Telegraph Company completed their cable from Zanzibar to Europe via Aden, and a telegraphic link with Europe was established.
Inspired by his visit to Europe, Barghash decided to make many changes on Zanzibar. Advised by John Kirk (now firmly installed as the power behind the throne), he appointed Lieutenant William Lloyd Mathews (see William Lloyd Mathews box, page 170) to reorganise his army and enforce his sovereignty over the interior.
During his exile in India, Barghash had seen the opulent wealth of the Indian palaces and he tried to emulate them on Zanzibar. Many luxurious palaces were built, including Chukwani, to the south of Zanzibar Town, and Maruhubi Palace, to the north, for his harem. Another palace, in the town, became known as the Beit el Ajaib, or House of Wonders, as it was the first building on Zanzibar to have electric lighting. In all his palaces, Barghash upgraded the dinner services from silver to gold. Divan coverings of goat and camel hair were replaced by silks and taffetas, and French carpets covered the floors.
Barghash introduced Zanzibar's first clean water system to replace supplies from local wells and rainwater: aqueducts and conduits brought pure water from a spring at Bububu into Zanzibar Town, a distance of some 6km. Other developments introduced by Barghash included a police force, an ice-making factory, electric street lighting, and telephones to connect his city and country palaces. Barghash also built and improved the roads on the island, and every year he provided one of his private steamships for Muslims wishing to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.