Archaeologists believe that the history of the San, Zambia's indigenous people, began half a million years ago. The San were nomadic hunters. Hundreds of years ago, when Bantu-speaking people from northern Africa began to migrate into Zambia, the San retreated into the forested areas. 

The Bantu-speaking people developed different cultures. Some raised cattle, some fished or grew crops, and some mined copper. By the middle of the 18th century, many of Zambia's largest tribal groups, including the Bemba, Lunda, Lozi and Ngoni, had established territories. 

Originally, traders from other countries came to Zambia to buy copper and ivory. But in the 18th and 19th centuries, Portuguese and Arab traders came to buy or capture people for the slave trade. Some tribal chiefs sold prisoners that they had taken during wars with neighbouring kingdoms to the slave traders. Other chiefs opposed this practice.

 In the mid-19th century, David Livingstone, a British missionary, became the first English-speaking person to explore Zambia. In the 1880s, Cecil Rhodes convinced the British government to give his British South Africa Company the right to stake mining claims in Zambia. Through manipulation and force, he made the African chiefs sign treaties that gave the company control of their territory. He called the territory Rhodesia.

  Did you know?
Although most of Zambia's rulers and chiefs have been men, at least two women have ruled the Luvale people, who live near the border with Angola. The Luvale's first chief was a woman named Kenga Naweji.
The British government took over the administration of the country in 1924. When huge deposits of copper ore were found in the Copperbelt area, the economy boomed, but the government did not use the money to help the local population. The people formed trade unions and political parties to demand independence. In 1953 Britain created the Central African Federation, made up of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and Nyasaland (now Malawi). In 1963, the federation broke apart. Zambia became an independent nation in 1964.

 Under Kenneth Kaunda, the first president, the government nationalized many industries, including the copper mines, and built schools and hospitals. But in the 1970s, copper prices dropped and the economy suffered. Meanwhile, civil wars in neighbouring Angola and Mozambique made exporting goods from landlocked Zambia very difficult. The government had to borrow money to build railways to reach other markets. Zambia also took in thousands of refugees from countries torn by civil wars. 

In 1991, Zambians elected a new president, Frederick Chiluba. He promised to help the economy by privatizing companies and developing new industries. Zambia is still struggling to improve its economy. In spite of many challenges, the country remains one of Africa's most politically stable nations.