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African Diaspora Newsletter No.10
MAJOR RESEARCH PAPER YORK UNIVERSITY, SUMMER 2003:

NUMBERS THAT MATTER:

SLAVE TRADE AND ETHNIC RELATIONS BETWEEN ANGOLA AND BRAZIL
IN THE LATE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

Khadija Cairus

Para o Ill.mo e Ex.mo Senhor Martinho de Mello e Castro, Novembro 29 de 1790

Logo que tomei posse do Governo deste Reino, de que Sua Majestade, foi servida encarregar-me, entrei a pençar na percizão que havia de castigar os Barbaros Mussues, e seus Aliados, que não admitindo o nosso Commercio, o arruinão no Sertão, introduzindo Contrabandos, que lhe administrarão sucessivamente os Estrangeiros, pelas Prayas, do seu Paiz e em particular pelo Porto de Ambres, fazendo-lhe todo o bom partido, na boa qualidade das fazendas, em preços taes, que fazem reputar em muito maiz o valor da Escravatura, provendo os mesmos Pretos, de trates Armas, e Polvora, e talvez animado os a arrogancia, e excesso, que praticarão, de virem ao Dande e Bengo, destruir ambos estes Paizes, que são aqueles que mais favorecem esta Capital, ameacando-a de a ella chegarem, matando os Brancos que aiharão, roubando tudo o que poderão levar, o que fizerão tambem aos Pretos, que forão vender aos Estrangeiros, e prostestando voltarem, contavão de ficar com a posseção do Dande: a falta de meyos tendo demorado a competente Expedição, só permitio o fazer-se o Entrincheiramento do Libongo, para ao menos cubrir, por aquela parte, algum novo insulto(...)
Sao Paulo da Assumpcao de Loanda, Manoel de Almeida Vasconcellos

A collection of official documents/letters related to the late eighteenth century in Arquivos de Angola, is particularly rich with information on commercial and political links between Luanda, Brazil and Portugal. The author of these letters (Oficios do Reino, from 1790 to 1797), Manoel de Almeida e Vasconcellos, assumed the Governorship of Angola on October 06, 1790. Most of the letters were sent to Senhor Martinho de Mello e Castro, Minister of the Overseas Colonies, in Lisbon. The issues dealt with include the slave trade, the movement of ships and trade goods, commodity prices, and colonial political challenges. The citation above, where the Governor expresses worry about the Guerra Preta in the hinterland of Luanda, is a good example of this complexity of issues. Unfortunately, not many scholars have paid attention to these documents.

Such scholarly neglect, according to Susan Broadhead (1971) is the result of the sources for the period between 1720 and 1880 being scattered far and wide, from the Vatican Archives to archives of in Rio de Janeiro. Most remain unpublished, even undiscovered. Yet the Atlantic slave trade reached its peak during this period, with many consequences for the Congo/Angola region. The Arquivos the Angola is an important source of published documents for this topic. As pointed out by José C. Curto (1992), it provides an invaluable set of documents on the demography of the slave trade from Luanda and Benguela to, in particular, Rio de Janeiro. Apart from the important external European influence, the political, ethnic, religious and commercial relations within Angola certainly contributed directly to the high numbers involved in the West-central Africa slave trade. According to Lovejoy (2000), Cabinda, Luanda and Benguela, accounted for the majority of slaves exported to the Americas. In the last decades of the eighteenth century, the peak years of the trans-Atlantic trade, West-central Africa contributed more than a third of slave exports from western Africa, rising to over 40 per cent of the trade from the 1770s through the 1790s. The numbers of slaves exported from West-central Africa increased dramatically from the first decade of the XVIII Century (8,000 slaves per year) to the end of the century (34,000 slaves per year). Governor Vasconcellos was well aware of this development, as another of his letters, dated December 31, 1791, shows. Secondly, these documents provide also provide similarly important information on the political and commercial dynamics of the period.

My Major Research Paper (MRP) seeks to analyze the documents penned by Governor Vasconcellos for what they offer on the political and ethnic relations which developed between Angolans and the Portuguese during this period. The study of ethnic relations and identities, in particular, is fundamental to understand from an Angolan perspective the historical circumstances, as well as the "states of mind," that made slavery possible both inside and outside of Africa.

The paper is divided into two parts. The first part investigates the role of Angolans in the slave trade from the hinterland of Luanda to the coast over the course of the 1700s and the influence of Luso-African families in this commercial relationship. The second part concentrates on the failure of the Portuguese northern policy during the late 18th century, especially the ways in which Catholic missionaries were used to enhance the power, status and interests of the Portuguese and Kongolese kings.

Bibliography

Arquivos de Angola (Luanda: Instituto de Investigação Cientifica de Angola) 2nd Series, Volume 25, Nos. 99/102 (1968).

Broadhead, Susan Herlin. "Trade and Politics on the Congo Coast: 1770-1870," Ph.D. dissertation, Boston University, 1971.

Curto, José C. "A Quantitative Reassessment of the legal Portuguese Slave Trade from Luanda, Angola, 1710-1830," African Economic History 20 (1992), pp. 1-25.

Lovejoy, Paul E. Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa. 2nd Edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

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