Namibian History

Discover Namibia's past

Early in the 20th Century Namibia was a German Colony. After the 1st World War it became a League of Nations administered territory. Following the 2nd World War, South Africa administered Namibia, until independence in 1990.

  • The first European to set foot on Namibia was Portuguese Diogo Cao in 1485
  • Bartholomeu Diaz stopped in Walvis Bay and Luderitz and on his way around the Cape of Good Hope
  • History tells that the Germans claimed South West Africa (as it was known) between 1884 and 1915
  • In 1915, South Africa, being a member of the Britsh Commonwealth at the time occupied the German colony of South West Africa
  • South Africa ruled Namibia between 1915 and 1966
  • Namibia fought for independence from South Africa during the period from 1966 to 1990
  • Independence was finally granted in 1990

Precolonial History of Namibia

Namibia has passed through several distinct stages over the years. If history is a subject you enjoy, you'll definitely enjoy discovering more about this country's past. At first glance the history of Namibia is relatively recent, however this is partly due to the fact that the pre-colonial history was never written down, but there is plenty archaeological evidence that shows that people inhabited Namibia at least 25,000 years ago. Namibia is a diverse country of hunter gatherers, traditional pastoralists, subsistence and commercial farmers, traders, miners and fisherman belonging to a variety of language and cultural groups.

Namibia History: The Scramble for Africa

Arguably the oldest inhabitants of the region are the Bushmen or San People, evident from the rock paintings and engravings at places in Damaraland like Twyfelfontein and the Brandberg. Today an estimated 35,000 Bushmen live in Namibia, with only a few of them continuing their historical and traditional ways of life. The Bushman share some linguistic features (such as the clicks) with the Damara and Nama peoples who established themselves in the area after them. Herero and Himba are the other distinctive cultures. The Herero can be see in flamboyant Victorian-style dresses and the semi-nomadic Himba are famous for covering themselves with otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre, which gives their skins a reddish tinge. The Owambo live in and around the northern parts of the country where farming is good and they can fish in the shallow waterways.

Namibia owes much of history to the Europeans

The first European to travel to namibia was the Portuguese Diogo Cao in 1485, who stopped briefly at the Skeleton Coast and raised a limestone cross there, on his exploratory mission along the west coast of Africa. This cross is nowadays known as Cape Cross and its historical importance is almost superseded by being home to a colony of over 100 000 Cape Fur Seals. The next significant visitor was Barholomeu Dias who stopped enroute at Walvis Bay and Luderitz on his way around the Cape of Good Hope. The Namib Desert was a formidable barrier and neither of these Portuguese explorers went very far inland!

The next important stage of Namibian History, was in 1793 when the Dutch Authority took control of Walvis Bay as it was a good deep water harbour. When the United Kingdom took control of the Cape Colony in 1797 they also took over Walvis Bay.

Namibia owes much of its most recent history to the infamous ‘Scramble for Africa’ that resulted in the 1878 British Annexation of the land surrounding Walvis Bay Harbour, the Afrikaner ‘trek boers’ escaping to the Cape Colony to the south and the proclamation in 1884 by Bismarck, of the protectorate of German South West Africa. During the First World War the South African forces gained control of German South West Africa and following the Treaty of Versailles continued to administer the areas as South West Africa. Resolution 435 of the United Nations in 1989 finally resulted in a peaceful independence for the Namibia people in 1990.

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