Between the 1st and 5th centuries AD, waves of Bantu speaking people moved gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. They established agricultural communities and brought with them the technology for iron making, a metal which they used to make weapons for the conquest of their neighbors.
When Portuguese explorers arrived, Swahili and Arab commercial settlements had existed along the coast and outlying islands for several centuries. From about 1500, Portuguese trading posts and forts displaced the Arabic commercial and military hegemony, becoming regular ports of call on the new European sea route to the east. The Portuguese were able to wrest much of the coastal trade from the Arabs as well as gain control of the territory between 1500 and 1700.
Over time and especially after WWII, communist and anti-colonial ideologies spread out across Africa, and many clandestine political movements were established in support of Mozambican independence. Many native people felt they had received too little opportunity or resources to upgrade their skills and improve their economic and social situation to a degree comparable to that of the Portuguese living in the country.
The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), initiated a guerrilla campaign against Portuguese rule in September 1964. From a military standpoint, the Portuguese regular army maintained control of the population centres while the guerrilla forces sought to undermine their influence in rural and tribal areas in the north and west.
After almost five centuries as a Portuguese colony and 10 years of war with FRELIMO and other events, Mozambique gained independence on June 25, 1975. The first several years of independence were characterized by sabotage from the neighbouring white-ruled state of Rhodesia and the Apartheid regime of South Africa, ineffective policies, failed central planning and the resulting economic collapse. This was marked by large-scale ethnic and cultural Portuguese emigration, a collapsed infrastructure, lack of investment in productive assets, and government nationalisation of privately owned industries. These events coupled with a severe drought and a prolonged and violent civil war between the ruling FRELIMO party and rebel Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) forces in which over one million people perished hindered the country's development until the mid 1990's.
FRELIMO formally abandoned Marxism in 1989, and a new constitution the following year provided for multiparty elections and a free market economy. A UN-negotiated peace agreement between FRELIMO and RENAMO ended the fighting in 1992. In December 2004, Mozambique underwent a delicate transition as Joaquim Chissano stepped down after 18 years in office. His elected successor, Armando Emilio Guebuza, promised to continue the sound economic policies that have encouraged foreign investment.