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African Diaspora Newsletter No.10 - Archival Reports
003.jpg (11590 bytes)   REPORT ON ARCHIVAL RESEARCH IN ANGOLA,
  SPRING 2003

  Mariana Pinho Candido
Museu da Escravatura - Angola

Thanks to the financial support of the Harriet Tubman Center at York University and the Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History, I was able to conduct archival research in Angola from January to April 2003. The goal of this trip was to further the research for my PhD thesis, which deals with the impact of the slave trade in the Benguela hinterland from 1770-1850. While in Angola, I received valuable advice and information kindly offered by Prof. José C. Curto and Prof. Paul E. Lovejoy.
 
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Former Slave Port - Benguela, Angola
 
The major focus of my investigation was the Benguela primary documents deposited in the Arquivo Histórico Nacional de Angola (AHNA), in Luanda. An agreement between the Harriet Tubman Research Centre on the Afrian Diaspora, York University, Toronto and the director of the AHNA, Dra. Rosa Cruz a Silva, made possible the digitalization of the documentation relating to Benguela before 1870. By digitalizing these documents, our aim was to ensure their preservation, as well as to make them more easily available to other researchers. Among the documents digitized are materials from the unbound manuscript collection (avulsos) and 14 volumes of Boletim Oficial de Angola, which provide information on a variety of topics subjects in the 19th century. In the unbound collection, there are 177 boxes of letters, reports and censuses that relate directly to Benguela: 6 of these deal specifically with Benguela in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I also digitized 90 volumes in the Códice (Codex) collection. Most of these bound manuscript volumes contain political and commercial correspondence between Portuguese authorities in Benguela and Luanda, and between Portuguese representatives along the central Angolan coast and in the interior of Benguela. This correspondence contains rich descriptions of the contact between the Portuguese and local African populations.
 
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Portuguese Journal, 1857
I was also given the opportunity to join a team from AHNA on a trip to Benguela. There I visited the Comarca Judicial de Benguela (CJB), which holds judicial records and private wills. Unlike archives in Luanda, the CJB has not yet inventoried or catalogued its documents. This, in addition to time constraints and restrictions within the CJB, slowed down the pace of my research in Benguela. I was able to consult only a small part of the documents available in the CJB. Yet, although documents at the CJB seem to date only from 1870, they do offer a body of rich documentation on mid-19th century Benguela that remains unexplored by scholars.
 
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Arquivo nacional de Angola,
Book # 510
Another important depository of documents is the Arquivo do Arquibispado de Luanda (AAL), which contains church records. The AAL was unfortunately closed for renovations while I was in Luanda, making it impossible for me to access its collections. However with the materials collected in the ANHA and the CJB, the research already carried out in various Portuguese and Brazilian now makes it possible to begin analyzing the dynamics of Angolan societies on the Benguela plateau and the transformations which took place during the era of the Atlantic slave trade.
 

Department of History, York University,  Toronto, Canada
Email: nigerian@yorku.ca
Fax: (416) 650-8173