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African Diaspora Newsletter No.9

   Graduate Students Reports

Mariana Candido (Ph.D. Candidate) Field Report - Lisbon

Between June and November of 2002, I had the opportunity to do research in Portugal thanks to the support of the Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History. This work was a fundamental element of my doctoral thesis research on the impact of the slave trade on the Benguela hinterland, 1770-1860. In this dissertation, I intend to analyze the role of the slave trade in the political changes that took place from1770 to 1860 in the interior of Benguela. From 1770 to 1840 Benguela was one of the major slaving ports in Africa. After the abolition of the slave trade, local merchants had to shift their commercial interests to "legitimate trade". These societies were constantly under social reconfiguration during this period, trying to adapt themselves to external demands. One variable that is not considered in the historiography of West Central Africa is the impact of the transatlantic slave trade on the local political entities in the Benguela region; as well as the local effect of the abolition of that transatlantic slave trade. Rather than reducing the number of slaves, the suppression of the transatlantic slave trade increased and stimulated internal slavery. Although the Benguela highlands were deeply affected by this new phenomenon, there are no studies dedicated to analysis of how these societies responded to this international conjuncture. The issue of how the surplus of captives was integrated into highland societies has not been addressed by scholars until now.

Besides the financial support offered by the Canada Research Chair on the African Diaspora, my stay in Lisbon during this research trip was also possible thanks to a research collaboration on the second edition of The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, under the supervision of Professors David Eltis and David Richardson. This association was made possible through the efforts of Professor Paul E. Lovejoy.

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Products exported from
Portugal to Benguela in 1776.
Obras Publicas archive
In Lisbon, one of the main goals was to consult the documentation relating to Angola at the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (AHU). The AHU holdings include documentation produced by Portuguese authorities and bureaucrats overseas until the independence of former Portuguese colonies. This documentation was produced mainly by Portuguese officials aware of the fact that they were creating official correspondence, however the documents are not necessarily dedicated exclusively to the Portuguese population overseas. It is possible to find a wealth of information about the social organization of local people. Among the documents available are military reports, exploration plans, troop information, commercial records, as well as trial transcripts, hospital records, censuses, descriptions of indigenous customs, and reports of epidemics and conflicts between Portuguese and local authorities. Some of the records offer interesting bits of information that will make it possible to construct a social history of the region.

The Angola documents available at AHU are divided into different collections. Most of the documentation is under two sections - primeira e segunda secções, but there are also 84 maços, 42 livros and 37 codices, organized under different circumstances related to Angola. At the AHU there are also documents that are not necessarily organized within the Angola collections, but which deal with the region since they were produced by the Secretaria de Estado dos Negócios da Marinha e Domínios do Ultramar and Conselho Ultramarino. This office gathered correspondence, publication of laws and orders exchanged throughout the Portuguese empire, including Angola. Among all this wealth of documentation 131 boxes of primeira secção, corresponding to the years 1769 to 1833; and 27 pastas of segunda secção, between 1834 and 1861, were consulted. Most of these documents are military petitions, reports on the territory, descriptions of military expeditions, information about outlaws sent to Angola such as their crime and destination; and quantitative data about commerce and society. The Codices collection refers to the correspondence exchanged between the Conselho Ultramarino in Lisbon and Portuguese authorities in Angola. In this collection it is possible to find instructions, royal pronouncements, decrees and laws which organized the Portuguese administration. Part of the documentation not yet catalogued is organized in maços, or bundles of manuscripts. These manuscripts arrived at the AHU from other institutions, not necessarily from the Conselho Ultramarino. Some maços concerning Portuguese expeditions to the interior, personal documents of the governor of Miguel Antonio de Melo, and Sá da Bandeira's collection relating to the internal pressure for the abolition of the slave trade and its consequences were consulted.

At UHU I also did research on the Bahia collection in order to contribute to the Transtlantic Slave Trade Database (TSTD). For this project, I collected records of slave ship arrivals on the Bahian coast from Africa, between 1604 and 1828, which will be added to the revised version of the database. This information is also very useful for my own research, since among these arrivals in Bahia there were an impressive number of slave ships coming from Benguela, making it possible to revise interpretations about the fate of slaves exported from Benguela port.

Besides the AHU, I also worked in the Arquivos Nacionais da Torre do Tombo (ANTT), especially the Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros (Foreign Affairs) collection, which includes documentation on the abolition of the slave trade. In the documents relating to the Junta do Comércio (Commercial Commission) there are several manuscripts about notices, requirements and procedures to be followed for the slave trade, as well as provisions and authorization for Brazilian merchants to join the slave trade. In the Ministério do Reino's collection there is information on embarkations at Benguela and commercial exchanges. Most of the religious documentation is organized under the Negócios Eclesiásticos' collection, even though some of the individual priests' records are available at Ministério da Justiça. At ANTT I also looked for information for the TSTD. There, I collected information from the Junta do Comércio about ships' licenses from 1767 to1828. These licenses were granted by the Portuguese state authorizing Portuguese merchants to sail to Africa in order to traffic in slaves. From these documents it was possible to observe the ships' intended destinations in Africa and subsequently in the Americas, as well as the use of slaves in the ships' crews.

At the Academia de Ciências de Lisboa, I consulted interesting records about diseases developed by newly-arrived slaves in Brazil and about epidemics in Portuguese possessions in Africa. These manuscripts will contribute to a broader understanding of disease exchanges between Africa and the Americas.

In the Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa the research focus was on the correspondence between authorities in Luanda and Benguela in 1820; reports of military expeditions to the interior of Benguela; and two volumes of Silva Porto's diary. The first volume of the diary goes from 1846 to 1854 and the second volume from 1860 to 1861. Silva Porto was a Portuguese merchant long established in the Benguela region, who took careful notes about his activities. He presents rich information from the interior, territories which were outside Portuguese control. Porto, with his commercial links, went further into the interior than military troops could go, and the result is an ethnographic description of different societies. There are 5 volumes of his diaries at SGL, in addition to the records of the taxes he had to pay to local rulers in order to maintain his activities (Memorial dos Mucanos); and a later revision of his diaries, Notas para retocar a minha obra logo que as circunstâncias permitam, written in 1866. In order to continue reading the last volumes of Silva Porto's diaries, I visited the Biblioteca Pública Municipal do Porto, at Porto, where I was able to examine another, which dates from 1854 to 1862. At BPMP I also checked a medical treatise written in Angola in 1770 and Memories of Angola, a manuscript written by the governor Francisco Inocêncio de Souza Coutinho in 1774.

In the Biblioteca Nacional in Lisbon, I consulted official letters sent to the governor of Angola, Souza Coutinho, to Portugal and Benguela. These letters offered rich descriptions of the Portuguese efforts to control the interior of Benguela for commercial interests. Most of the documentation available at the BN on Benguela is related to governors' reports, which offer interesting descriptions of the political and economic situation of the region. Usually they also mention areas of conflict for Portuguese authorities, where local rulers challenged their power.

The Erário Régio archive contains documents related to the incomes and expenses of the Portuguese state. There I examined public records of income taxes from Benguela, as well as expense records from 1785 to 1809, where there was some information about slave exportations.
At the Obras Públicas' archive the holdings include importation and exportation information from Portugal to its overseas territories, from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 19th. Besides this, it has an interesting map collection on Portuguese expeditions in the interior of Angola.
During these five months in Lisbon, I was able to explore part of the documentation on Angola available in its archives. The Portuguese archives offer a wealth of documentation on this region, but unfortunately these documents are not indexed, so researchers must spend much of their time sifting through collections in order to find relevant sources. Much more could be done if the Portuguese archives offered research tools and guides which would greatly aid the advancement of this work.

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