Angola Table of Contents

Angola under the New State

The right-wing Portuguese military coup of May 1926, which ended the republican era, led to the installation of a one-party regime in Portugal and the establishment of what came to be known as the New State. A young professor of economics, António Salazar, became minister of finance in 1928, and by 1930 he was one of the most prominent members of the government. He held the post of prime minister from 1932 until 1968, when he was incapacitated by a stroke. During his tenure in office, he left a lasting impression on events in Angola.

The most important changes introduced into Angola by the new regime were embodied in the Colonial Act of 1930. This act brought Angola's economy into line with economic policies that the new regime was implementing at home. But Portugal's application of strict financial controls over the colony also halted the drift toward political autonomy in Angola.

Portugal's policies toward Angola in the 1930s and 1940s were based on the principle of national integration. Economically, socially, and politically, Angola was to become an integral part of the Portuguese nation. In line with these policies, Portugal renamed African towns, usually after Portuguese heroes. Still later, in the early 1950s, Portugal withdrew the currency, known as the angolar, and replaced it with the Portuguese escudo.

Portugal integrated its economy with that of Angola by erecting protective trade tariffs and discouraging foreign investment capital, except in the construction of the Benguela Railway and in the exploitation of diamonds. In this way, Portugal sought to make Angola self-supporting and, at the same time, to turn it into a market for Portuguese goods. But despite a certain degree of success, Angola enjoyed no real prosperity until after World War II, when higher coffee prices brought enormous profits to Angolan producers. The consequent economic success of the coffee plantations, owned primarily by newly arrived Portuguese settlers attracted by the colony's increasing wealth, continued until independence in 1975, when the Portuguese exodus and civil war severely disrupted the Angolan economy.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress