The area known as Southern Rhodesia is roughly the size of modern Zimbabwe. After the split in 1923, Southern Rhodesia became known simply as Rhodesia. Previously, in 1922, nearly 30,000 white settlers in Southern Rhodesia voted for the area to become self-governing rather than integrated into the Union of South Africa.
Very soon after the annexation by the British government in 1923, Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing colony. As with Northern Rhodesia, the right to vote was tied primarily to property qualifications. While a few black Africans were elected to the assembly, the legislature was predominantly white.
In 1930, the Southern Rhodesian Land Act was passed, excluding black Africans from owning the best farmland and creating a situation similar to the one experienced by the native people in South Africa at the same time. Four years later, a labor law excluding black Africans from entering the skilled trades and professions was passed. Additional legislation of the time continued to discriminate against the native population.
The indigenous peoples suffered repeated shrinking of areas set aside for them, the constant confiscation of the best, most arable lands, and continued exclusion from any professions that required specific skills. Education tended to be private schools that catered to the white minority, with the education of the native Africans relegated to missionaries.
However, with the onset of World War II, the social conditions of Southern Rhodesia were forced to change. During the war, many young white men enlisted to serve in the British army; this meant that black African natives had to fill the vacated jobs to prevent the complete collapse of the economy. This, more than anything, started to empower the natives.
The black population of Southern Rhodesia was not unrepresented in the legislature but was significantly under-represented. Dissatisfaction with the local political situation began to grow in the native community, and many social and political organizations advocating the demands of the local black population sprang up.
Following the war, the British Colonial Office attempted to assuage the situation with constitutional changes, increasing the size of the electorate and granting political representation to the African majority. Naturally, the powerful white minority opposed these measures, believing that the Colonial Office had no authority; Southern Rhodesia had been self-governing since 1924.
This position was enhanced by the return of white Rhodesian servicemen following the end of the war; veterans wanted their jobs back, a situation that permitted the environment of pushing aside the grievances of the black African population and increasing racial policies that closely resembled those of neighboring South Africa.
Southern Rhodesia would remain relatively peaceful by African standards until the 1960s.