Mozambique: Vicissitudes of an East African Colony, 1505-1955

Portugal's colonial empire was, at the C.R. Boxer wrote this article in 1956, the oldest in the world, with Mozambique as its most prosperous possession.

A survey of Portugal’s colonial history since that country initiated the expansion of Europe overseas, with the capture of Ceuta from the Moors in 1415, discloses four main trends in Lusitanian empire-building.

First comes the pioneer African empire epitomized by the voyages of discovery down the West Coast, the occupation of some fortified towns along the Moroccan littoral, and the domination of the Guinea trade in gold, ivory and slaves by the great castle built at Saint George of the Mine (Elmina).

Vasco da Gama’s opening of the sea-route to India in 1498 inaugurated the second or Asian empire, which was essentially a commercial and maritime enterprise, based on command of the Indian Ocean from strategic bases at Mozambique, Ormuz, Goa and Malacca.

When this Asian empire crumbled under the attacks of the Dutch in the early seventeenth century, its loss was redeemed by the rise of Portugal’s third or American empire, whose economic mainstay was Brazilian sugar and tobacco in the seventeenth century, and gold and diamonds in the eighteenth.

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