“All of these essays are written with an overriding preoccupation to communicate and to present complicated stories in a way that the reader can appreciate and assimilate. As glosses on both Angolan history and the Angolan scene over the last thirty years they are little classics, intelligent, witty, informed, and always enlightening.”
Journal of African History
“The author of this fabulous collection of essays is a British historian who began writing about Africa and Portugal over 60 years ago. Beginning in 1488 when the Portuguese mariner Bartolomeu Dias sailed all the way to the Cape of Good Hope, Birmingham takes us through the following five centuries with his customary wit and intelligence.”
The I. B. Taurus Blog
Portugal was the first European nation to assert itself aggressively in African affairs. David Birmingham’s Portugal and Africa, a collection of uniquely accessible historical essays, surveys this colonial encounter from its earliest roots. The Portuguese established sugar plantations on Africa’s offshore islands and built factories on the beaches in the fifteenth century, but Professor Birmingham explains that their focus shifted to regions where medieval African miners had discovered deep seams of gold ore. Later, when even richer mines and more fertile lands were captured from the native peoples of the Americas, Portuguese ships became the great “slave bridge” that spanned the Atlantic and ferried captive black workers to the colonies of the New World.
Portugal lost its major mining claims in Africa to the British, but it left a legacy of a new pattern of white settler colonization based on American-style plantations. The blending of European and African cultures and races led to the emergence of elite communities, from the Kongo princes of the seventeenth century to the creolized generals of today.
Portugal and Africa focuses extensively on Angola to cast new light on the final years of the colonial experience and its traumatic legacies. After 1950, Portuguese Angola became one of the most dynamic of Africa’s colonies and the largest white colony outside of Algeria or South Africa. Angola’s eventual collapse in a series of wars had devastating results. Birmingham brings the terror and devastation to life in a series of powerful chapters that are a model of disciplined scholarship and informed passion.
David Birmingham lived in Switzerland from 1947 to 1954 as a child and returned there in the 1990s as a visiting historian. From 1980 to 2001 he held the chair of Modern History in the University of Kent at Canterbury in England. He is the author of many books, including Portugal and Africa. More info →
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