The ancestors of the Shona settled in their region in the first millennium A . D ., introducing settled agriculture, cattle, and iron mining to the area. Although the Shona have been organized, for the most part, into small, independent chiefdoms, from time to time during the course of their history, conglomerations of chiefdoms have been united into larger states. Control of trade in gold and ivory with Arabs and Portuguese on the coast constituted both a motive and a support for political rulers to expand their spheres of influence. From the twelfth century onward, techniques of drystone walling were developed by the Karanga in the south, who, with the formation of large states, constructed a number of large stone buildings.
In the nineteenth century, the Shona were disturbed by Nguni migrations from the south, particularly by the Ndebele who, possessing superior military techniques, settled in and dominated the southeast of what is now Zimbabwe. Colonial settlement came at the end of the century. An uprising against the settlers was defeated. Independence came after further wars in Rhodesia and Mozambique in the 1960s and 1970s.
From the nineteenth century onward, the Shona have migrated to work in the mines of South Africa. After the colonial settlement of southern Rhodesia, employment became available within the country, on farms and mines, and particularly in the growing industrial cities. Some groups were moved off their land to make way for settlers who wanted to farm it.
Widespread education was introduced by various groups of missionaries, who also established hospitals and diverse forms of technical training, including training in improved agriculture. These services were subsequently taken over and expanded by government. Plow agriculture is now prevalent.