The Shona and Zimbabwe, 900-1850

An Outline of Shona History

D. N. Beach



As the title suggests the principal theme of this study is the relationship between the Shona and their land over nearly a millennium. The topic is far more complex than it may at first appear. The Shona-speaking people were never under one rule nor, despite notable examples, was the state their only viable (or even typical) political unit. Moreover, Shona lands included not only contemporary Zimbabwe, but the entire plateau between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers. The Shona never had a general name for this large region, and, until this century, they did not even recognize a common name for themselves.


When I first met David Beach and learned of his projected Shona history in 1974, I was admittedly skeptical. It appeared unlikely that a lone historian could successfully complete the comprehensive work that Beach envisioned. - T. H. Elkiss, The International Journal of African Historical Studies


David Norman Beach was a Zimbabwean historian. He worked at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the University of Zimbabwe and pioneered the documentation of oral traditions in Zimbabwe. He died in 1999.