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History, British Influence

capital of Mozambique, Lourenco Marques, abolishing slavery, slave trade, warlords

In 1856 Scottish explorer David Livingstone reached the mouth of the Zambezi after exploring its upper reaches. Livingstone returned to the Zambezi in 1858, attempting to open a river route into central Africa. Livingstone’s endeavors and, more to the point, the political designs of Britain, troubled Portugal deeply. To fend off British interest in the region, Portugal tried to exert further control over the various Arab and African cheiftaincies in Mozambique. In 1861 the Portuguese wrested the slaving port of Angoche from its Arab holders, and then embarked on a string of largely disastrous wars against the interior warlords. Under pressure from Britain, Portugal outlawed the slave trade in Mozambique in 1842, finally abolishing slavery altogether in 1878.

By the 1870s European interest in Africa was focused on raw materials and the labor needed to extract them. Although Mozambique had little mineral wealth compared with diamond-rich land in what would become South Africa, it attracted speculators who wanted to grow sugar, cotton, and oil seeds. The Portuguese welcomed these private companies, which would develop the region’s infrastructure, pay tariffs on exports, and most important, counter the influence of the British. In 1875, when Scottish missionaries established themselves in the Shire highlands, Portugal’s enthusiasm for granting concessions to private companies grew greater still. Several colonial companies were established, the most important of which was started by Paiva de Andrade in 1878 and in 1888 became the Mozambique Company.

In January 1890, with the control of East Africa still unresolved, Britain threatened war against Portugal if its border demands were not met. No match for the British Navy, Portugal conceded to most of Britain’s demands, and in May 1891 the frontiers of modern Mozambique were drawn. Much of the western highlands passed into British hands, but Portugal was left in control of the lengthy coast with its numerous ports and trade stations, as well as the lowlands between the coast and the highlands.

Soon thereafter, Portugal undertook a series of campaigns against the African kingdoms within Mozambique’s borders. Portugal finalized its occupation of the south in a series of rapid strikes against the Gaza Empire, which surrendered in 1895. The final defeat of the warlords along the Zambezi was achieved in 1902, but the entirety of Mozambique was not fully under Portuguese control until the 1920s. In 1902 Portugal established the capital of Mozambique at Lourenco Marques, now Maputo.

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