Crossing the Zambezi

The Politics of Landscape on a Central African Frontier

Joann McGregor



This book is a history of claims to the Zambezi, focussed on the stretch of the river extending from the Victoria Falls downstream into Lake Kariba, which today constitutes the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is a story of 150 years of conflict over the changing landscape of the river, in which the tension between the Zambezi's 'river people' and more powerful others has been central. The Zambezi is one of Africa's longest and most important rivers - securing access to its waters and control over its banks, traffic and commerce were crucial political priorities for leaders of precolonial states no less than their colonial and postcolonial successors. The book is about the ways in which the course of the Zambezi has shaped history.


Crossing the Zambezi is a magnificent study of how a great river can structure the lives of the people who live along it. ...Europeans perceived the Zambezi as a boundary rather than a uniting force, and McGregor traces out the consequences of that boundary-making as people became defined as citizens of different countries... - Elizabeth Colson


Joann McGregor is professor of Human Geography at the University of Sussex.