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A Brief History of Uganda



Uganda is very much a product of it's recent history, in particular the events since the country gained independence from Britain in 1962.

The last 50 years have seen dramatic shifts and turns in the country's economic and political fortunes, and go a long way to explaining the Uganda of today. But to better appreciate it's culture, customs and heritage it's useful to have an understanding of it's history since about 1845, when the first white explorers,German missionaries, began sending reports back to Europe of their discoveries, including great lakes and snowy mountains' some weeks' journey inland from the coast.


Early History and the First Explorers

Earliest records show that the four main ethnic groups of Uganda, Bantus,Nilotics,NiloHamitics and the Sudanics were all resident and living in three separate Kingdoms when the first European explorers arrived. Each Kingdom had its own laws, customs, music and oral history. Elements of these cultural identities have survived, leading to variations in customs, music and dance throughout the country, whilst the inevitable cultural mixing led to new traditions, forms of dance and music evolving.

Explorers including Speke, Stanley and Livingston opened the area to hundreds of Europeans, sparked Britain's interest in claiming the territory, and opened up opportunities for trade, mainly to the advantage of the Europeans.


British Protectorate

Uganda officially became a British Protectorate in 1894, and immediately acquired the trappings that went with its new colonial status. Although intentionally disguised as local rule, the imported systems shaped the armed forces, judicial system, foreign policy, trade routes, agriculture, ideas of appropriate social behaviour, official language, system of government and religious beliefs across the nation. Many of these colonial systems survived the demise of the colonial era and life span of the protectorate and still exist today. Vehicles drive on the left (usually!), the judicial system is still based on British law, and the official language spoken by all educated Ugandans is English.

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