Portuguese Settlers in Angola

Angola Table of Contents

The Portuguese authorities and settlers in Angola formed a motley group. The inhabitants resented the governors, whom they regarded as outsiders. Indeed, these officials were less concerned with the welfare of the colony than with the profit they could realize from the slave trade. But governing the small colony was difficult because any central administrative authority had to deal with a group of settlers prone to rebellion. Because Brazil was the jewel of Portugal's overseas territories, Portuguese who immigrated to Angola were frequently deserters, degredados, peasants, and others who had been unable to succeed in Portugal or elsewhere in the Portuguese-speaking world.

Owing principally to the African colony's unsavory reputation in Portugal and the high regard in which Brazil was held, there was little emigration to Angola in the 1600s and 1700s. Thus, the white population of Angola in 1777 was less than 1,600. Of this number, very few whites were females; one account states that in 1846 the ratio of Portuguese men to Portuguese women in the colony was eleven to one. A product of this gender imbalance was miscegenation; for example, the mestišo population in 1777 was estimated at a little more than 4,000.

Besides exporting them, Europeans in Angola kept slaves as porters, soldiers, agricultural laborers, and as workers at jobs that the Portuguese increasingly considered too menial to do themselves. At no time, however, was domestic slavery more important to the local economy than the exporting of slaves.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress