Although historians have examined the process of pre-colonial political integration, little attention has been paid to the complementary patterns of ethnic and cultural assimilation. The Chikunda, who were initially slaves on the Zambezi prazos, provide an excellent example of this phenomenon. Over the course of several generations, captives from more than twenty ethnic groups submerged their historical, linguistic, and cultural differences to develop a new set of institutions and a common identity. The decline of the prazo system during the first half of the nineteenth century generated large scale migrations of Chikunda outside of the lower Zambezi valley. They settled in Zumbo, the Luangwa valley and scattered regions of Malawi where they played an important role in the nineteenth-century political and military history of south central Africa.