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HISTORY OF ANGOLA

The territory that is present-day Angola has, according to the findings of French researchers, been inhabited since the Lower Paleolithic period.  Throughout its history, it has witnessed considerable movement of peoples, with successive waves of Bantu peoples pushing the Khoisan, a primitive non-Bantu indigenous people, southwards. The Khoisan population has today been reduced to fewer than ten thousand people. These Bantu migrations continued until the end of the 19th Century.


The arrival of the first Europeans at the end of the 15th Century, in 1482, when the Portuguese navigator Diogo Cão dropped anchor at the mouth of the Congo or Zaire River. The standard that he then set up on one of the riverbanks in name of King D. João II attests to the first foreign recognition of the Kingdom of Congo. In its capital, the city of Mbanza, which still exists in the North of Angola, the Congo king warmly welcomed the foreigners and agreed to convert to Christianity, adopting the name Afonso I.

In 1700, history indicates that the Portuguese controlled an area of 65 thousand square kilometres, from the coast of Luanda and Benguela to 200 kilometres towards the inland area. The practical objective of this was to keep open slave trade routes from the plateau. Indeed, at this time, black slaves were the main article of trade, and were “exported” to Portugal, Brazil, the West Indies and Central America.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the situation did not change significantly.  The slave catchment area increased, extending from the central plateau, as did the number of slaves exported from Angola.

At the end of the 18th Century, at the order of the Marquês de Pombal, the all-powerful minister of the King of Portugal, a half-hearted attempt was made to explore some of the country’s mineral wealth. This failed, owing to the absence of support from locals and from the Metropolis itself, which was more interested developing Brazil using Angolan slaves. Angola therefore had to continue to maintain its title as the slave mine and its role as a supplier of slaves for Brazilian plantations.

Correspondence exchanged during this period between the Kings of Portugal and Congo indicates that this initial contact occurred between sovereigns on an equal footing.  This showed that Congolese society was open to interacting with the recent arrivals and having a genuine alliance between two organized States.

Only during the course of the 16th Century and after continuous and complicated games of seduction, intrigues and betrayals did the relationship of dependency that the Kingdom of the Congo had vis-à-vis the Portuguese Crown become more accentuated.

Other, minor kingdoms further south were dependent on the Kingdom of the Congo.  These included the Matamba and the Ndongo, from whose rulers, the Ngola the name Angola would later come. The resistance by these three kingdoms to colonial penetration would be practically crushed in the second half of the 17th Century, within the short space of 20 years: Congo (1665), Ndongo (1671) and Matamba (1681).

Paradoxically, as the revolts against the slave trade by some independent rulers and African states in the plateau increased, an African economic elite was establishing itself at the core of this trade.

The 20th Century witnessed the great explorations of the African continent and its partitioning and colonization.  The explorations carried out by Serpa Pinto, Capelo and Ivens made it possible to allow for more specific mapping of Angola.

Angola is a young country that attained independence in 1975 after over 500 years of Portuguese colonization.