In response to a recent query on the South Africa list about someone recorded
in the 1911 UK census as having been born in "Rhodesia" in the 1880s, I
reccomended E.C. Tabler's book "Pioneers of Rhodesia"
Here is more information about it:
Tabler, Edward C. 1966. Pioneers of Rhodesia. Cape Town: Struik.
Biographies of adult male foreigners who
visited Zimbabwe before the establishment of
company rule in the 1890s. Includes
biographical information of Frederick Green,
Reuben Beningfield and others.
Since it was published before 1970 there is no ISBN, but a Google search for
"Tabler Rhodesia" should find information about second-hand copies etc,
The name "Rhodesia" for what is now Zimbabwe only ceme into general use in
the 1890s, after Rhodes's pioneer column entered the territory, but in the
1911 UK censuses it would not be surprising that people who had been born
there even before that would refer to it as "Rhodeis, isince that was what it
was called in the UK in 1911.
Before 1890 what is now called Zimbabwe was known to outsiders as
Matabeleland and Mashonaland. Matabeleland, in the south west, was ruled by
the Ndebele King Lobnengula, whose father Mzilikazi (alias Moselikatse) had
invaded and conquered it in the 1840s after being driven out of the Transvaal
by a combined force of Voortrekkers, Grikquas and others.
Before 1840 the country was inhabited by people known to outsiders as Shona
or Mashona, who spoke related languages and dialects that have since been
standardised in written form.
Foreigners who visited the area before 1890 were mostly huinters and traders.
There were a few Christian missionaries at the court of Lobengula. Lobengula
was not interested in their religious message, but found them useful as
diplomatic agents and sources of firearms. Some missionaries (like David
Livingstone) opassed through on their way to other places. These missionaries
were mostly from the London Missionary Society, originally
interdenominational, but later largely Congregational. Its successor is the
Council for World Mission, whose web site is:
so if you have missionary ancestors, ask about their archives.
The hunters and traders mostly sold European manufactured goods to the local
people -- knives, axes, firearms, cooking utensils, clothing and blankets and
sometimes alcoholic liquor etc in exchange for ivory, cattle and the like.
They also hunted elephants on their own account.
It was their reports of gold mines that excited the interest of Cecil Rhodes
and his mining magnate friends. The hunters and traders generally knew little
of mining, however, and did not realise that the mines they saw were largely
worked out. They had supported the prosperity of the Mwene Mutapa state a few
centuries earlier, and the exhaustion of the gold mines probably contributed
to its decline.
The hunters and traders lived a wandering life, like gipsies, travelling from
place to place in ox wagons, and occasionally going to towns in what is now
South Africa to sell their ivory and replenish their stocks of imported
goods. The more literate and literary among them contributed articles papers
to geographical societies and journals (it was mostly these that Tabler used
as sources), for example the "Cape Monthly Magazine". If they were married,
their children were home schooled, and were sometimes baptised en masse on
visits to towns in South Africa, or to mission stations such as those at the
court of Lobengula. If the children got sick, or suffered accidents, there
were only home remedies. There was no "Rescue 911" on call. Some survived
childhood accidents and illnesses (falling off wagons, snakebite, being gored
by oxen, being burnt in fires etc) and others did not.
They came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were shady characters, on the
run from the law in their own countries. Some were in search of adventure or
outdoor life. A few came from wealthy families and had independent means.
They were the "sportsmen" -- those who enjoyed shooting wild animals, not so
much to make a living, but because they regarded it as entertainment. And
most probably fell into it as a way of making a living and carried on doing
it because they managed to survive that way.
So children listed in a UK census in 1911 as having been born in "Rhodesia"
in the 1880s were most probably born to parents who lived that kind of life.
One of the better-known of the "sportsman" variety with independent means and
wealthy families is Frederick Selous - see:
Tabler's book also, however, documents those of humbler origins, about whom
less is known.