This article considers late-nineteenth-century firearms as technology received and used by Africans with a variety of social outcomes. It focuses on the Gonarezhou area of South Eastern Zimbabwe, a rich wildlife habitat now incorporated in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, the largest single wildlife conservation area in the world. When completely established it will cover 100,000 square kilometers in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Mozambique. I treat the transfer of firearms here as a societal demand and supply process. The firearms discourse is important to this area, which throughout the last two centuries has experienced sustained poaching and civil war. This is just the recorded period; in reality, firearms-induced exploitation of nature in the area has been going on since 1500. This article is a modest attempt to reconstruct the process of diffusion that brought guns here during the period of European imperial expansion, and the consequences of this transfer, which included the emergence of areas outside the control of European governments, alteration of hunting activities with harmful consequences for the environment, and the development of an extensive trade in human beings to serve the mines and farms of South Africa. The article is a byproduct of a much broader research on Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) among precolonial societies of the southeastern Lowveld (lowlands) of Zimbabwe. Such a perspective emphasizes the deep involvement of African users of firearms in the diffusion process, in contrast to some expectations about the dominant role of Europeans, even as it demonstrates that firearms diffusion in the Great Limpopo area between 1870 and 1920 produced an essentially negative impact.


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pp. 201-231
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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Ceased Publication
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