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History, Kongo Kingdom

Congolese embassy, Kongo kingdom, sultanate of Zanzibar, Portuguese king, Portuguese territory

The most important early Congolese state was the kingdom of the Kongo people around the mouth of the Congo River. The Portuguese had some contact with the Kongo around 1482, when navigator Diogo Cam visited the mouth of the Congo River and claimed the surrounding region as Portuguese territory. The Portuguese named the river Rio de Padrao (Pillar River). At its height, the Kongo kingdom extended from present-day northwestern Angola to Gabon. In 1489 a Congolese embassy was sent to the Portuguese king, and in 1491 Franciscan missionaries and Portuguese craftsmen visited the area. Soon thereafter, the manikongo, or king, of Kongo converted to Christianity, but his attempts to impose the religion on his people provoked violent opposition. His son Afonso succeeded him in 1507. Literate in Portuguese, Afonso modeled his government on the Portuguese system and built many churches. Under Afonso, Kongo participated in slave raids in neighboring regions and in slave trade with the Portuguese, making Kongo a significant supplier to the Atlantic slave trade. The slave raiding brought unrest to the region, however, and the Kongo kingdom declined by the end of the 16th century, in part because of invasions by the Jaga, an eastern warrior people. Centuries elapsed before another serious European expedition to the region was undertaken. However, Arabs from the sultanate of Zanzibar in East Africa reached the region west of Lake Tanganyika in the mid-18th century, establishing plantations and conducting extensive slave raids. By the late 18th century 50,000 to 70,000 slaves were taken every year to Zanzibar and the Middle East.

Article key phrases:

Congolese embassy, Kongo kingdom, sultanate of Zanzibar, Portuguese king, Portuguese territory, Franciscan missionaries, violent opposition, Lake Tanganyika, Congo River, Jaga, Atlantic slave trade, Padrao, unrest, Arabs, Christianity, Literate, plantations, Gabon, invasions, Centuries, slaves, churches, religion, East Africa, century, attempts, government, height, Middle East, mouth, end, area, year, contact


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