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.