1. We have added a Gift Upgrades feature that allows you to gift an account upgrade to another member, just in time for the holiday season. You can see the gift option when going to the Account Upgrades screen, or on any user profile screen.
    Dismiss Notice

Kongo in Renaissance Era

Discussion in 'World History' started by Lonecat Nekophrodite, Sep 18, 2019.

  1. Lonecat Nekophrodite

    Lonecat Nekophrodite King

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2019
    Messages:
    618
    Gender:
    Male
    What did they look like by the time King Mvemba a Nzinga had a contact with Portugese (and himself converted to Catholicism). Did he reform military? (and 'reform' does not mean just adding arquebusiers to the army. It also reorganizations). Did Congolese subject adopt any Portugese fashions? if so to which extend did they do?
    Did Kongo became a vassal to Portugal during his era? (though Portugese did succesfully colonized Kongo in 18th century, some two o three centures after Mvemba is long gone, exploting classic royal court dispuites to their ends).

    Did Civilopedia entry of Ngao Mbeda regarding to transitions to arquebus correct?
    (Mod Potential). What shall be Congolese uniform colour scheme, Is it possible that they will take Portugese Blue if they ever adopt whitemen uniforms? or Brazilian colonials? (Both were at times, ruled over by Portugal).
    and for how long did Congolese troops wear Ngao Mbeda headdress?
     
  2. raen

    raen Coat of Arms

    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Messages:
    2,216
    Location:
    Portugal
    Portuguese first encounter was with Mvemba a Nzinga father, the third king of Kongo if I remember. King João II of Portugal (king at the time) invited him to his court, explained how European culture was better, offered him and his family scholarship, so with all this later both father and son were baptized and got Portuguese names, respectively João I (like João I of Portugal, master of Avis and father of Prince Henry) and Afonso I (like Afonso Henriques, Portugal Creator). So they heir Christianism. As for the military, I don't know any of it (I will try to find), but probably they traded/exchange all sort of "stuff", but the relations started to go down even at Mvemba a Nzinga kingdom, he sent letters to Portugal and Rome, some of them complaining In 1526, upon discovering that Portuguese merchants were purchasing illegally enslaved persons and exporting them, and Afonso I wanted to cut all relations with Portugal, but not happening, Manuel I sealed some agreement, and with that construction, justice, and other commodities were built in Kongo.

    So seems Vassal at the time standards. But Portuguese always got ill when living in Kongo for a time so at that time no kind of exploration of Kongo, like was made years later by Bandeirantes in Brazil.
     
  3. Lonecat Nekophrodite

    Lonecat Nekophrodite King

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2019
    Messages:
    618
    Gender:
    Male
    With that it took two or three centuries for Portugese to take Kongo? Did Portugese King recruit Brazilians to do this job since they're more adapt to tropical jungles. (or did West African pathology nature is too different to Brazil? ok lemme guess the said diseases that halted Portugese progresses for centuries must be Diarrhea or anything that needs antibiotics. But first antibiotics came to exists two o three decades after the last Bagranza king was ousted.)

    Googling only shown that Congolese (I don't even think they're kongolese either. the description said 'African' without specify ethnicity beyond that) warriors still uses bows and bronze spear, and accompanied by portugese soldiers and officiers). I donno if these congolese came from a settlement controlled by Portugese or served as pathfinder rather than actual warriors? nor did portugese rank 'n file in Africa (or Kongo) wears that style of leather helmet rather than Morrion or renaissance hat of the time. Given that the weapons shown there. which branch of service this unit was? Infantry or Cavalry?



    Did Mvemba tap his staff upon ground gently when he agrees to some deals the way he did in Civ6?
     
  4. raen

    raen Coat of Arms

    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Messages:
    2,216
    Location:
    Portugal
    I believe illness was not the only reason, not as easy and free of strong oppositiion as was Brazil. They were strong kings but when a king died was a tribe war for sucession. Since Portugal started to trade (king of Congo also traded slaves but from other tribes, sort of prisioners of war) with them and a Cristian "state" was formed, that Portugal always defended their lineage. So military help happened but let me read deeper in some books I have at home.

    Today at early morning found some pictures in a book, and one was about Ana Nzinga, where she was holding a sort of golden bow and arrow with her soldiers, and some musisians, maybe part of a military parade, but all half naked, and I merely see a spear, and no arquebus. But maybe is only a personification. I have to read all book to find something.
     
  5. Lonecat Nekophrodite

    Lonecat Nekophrodite King

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2019
    Messages:
    618
    Gender:
    Male
    ^ And these African kingdoms did learn to use firearms and whitemen armors too I think. How strong were these Arican kingdoms including Kongo? were they about the same strengh as Either Hanthawaddi, Ayutthaya, or Old Japan?
    Ana Nzinga. also appeared in Civ6 as Great General. What's her relationship with Mvemba?

    (And your gaming experience) As Kongo, have you ever recruit Ana Nzinga?
    Ana Nzinga VS Portugese.jpg

    Is this the correct repesentations of both Angolan/Congolese and Portugese troopers? did they employ swordsmen against Africans or were they actually pikemen or arquebusiers but dropped such weapons mid battle?
    And pigments for Portugese Blue. do you have RGB code for it? (and do you think Kongo should hypothetically adopt this too? I'd say Brazilians rather did)
    too bad there's no Leopard tints in game :p
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2019
  6. raen

    raen Coat of Arms

    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Messages:
    2,216
    Location:
    Portugal
    The relationship is that is they are aside of the kingdom of Kongo, and also Portugal wanted them to be Christianized (this way a good part of Africa was catholic, therefore more control...), but Portugal had to fight, and also Dutch were there too some time in history, but let me read further.

    I used Ana Nzinga in my civ4 mod but I didn't find a flag, I have invented one, but I made "Portugal Africa" where I use king of Kongo Joao I and Ana Nzinga, but also no military unit I could find at the time.
     
  7. Lonecat Nekophrodite

    Lonecat Nekophrodite King

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2019
    Messages:
    618
    Gender:
    Male
    Alright continue your readings and whenever you found something noteworthy regarding to Portugese in West Africa then add here.
    Dutch had always been rivals to Portugal, Wherever Portugese goes, Dutch follows. Whoever cuts a deal with Portugese, Dutch goes mad.

    (a bit off topic) Southeast Asian affairs are involved with the two maritime rivalries too. Wars between Ayutthaya and any kingdom west of Tennaserim Range or any Irrawady kingdoms are often involved with the two. Did Portugese have their internal competitions amongs merchant navy too? like one Portugese merchant cut a deal with Ayutthaya, the other with any 'Burmese' kingdom rivaling to the former, and it is said that early modern Siamese cannonry were introduced by Portugese and made with different production techniques to the 'french' (as Emissary La Loubert (?) described) including the use of iron core barrel to reinforce cast bronze. Correct?
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2019
  8. raen

    raen Coat of Arms

    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Messages:
    2,216
    Location:
    Portugal
    Yes, I believe in this case they were taking advantage of Ana Nzinga wanting to cut relations with Portugal, but I will get deeper.

    As for Asia I know Portuguese took advantage of enemies of enemies so they made some agreements with some, and attacked toghether at Portuguese command, another book for that :p
     
  9. raen

    raen Coat of Arms

    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Messages:
    2,216
    Location:
    Portugal
    Hi, I read and read, and I don't find any reference of military reform until the moment, Portuguese had always few resources for them selfs, they did trade firearms but for the sake of trade, which was Portuguese Motto all along.

    Portugal tried to convert Kongo for good, had worked for years, but failed at the end.
     
  10. Morningcalm

    Morningcalm Keeper of Records

    Joined:
    May 7, 2007
    Messages:
    3,956
    Location:
    Abroad
    I didn’t find many references to specific Kongolese military reform either; let me know if you come across any. I do think the history around Kongo is fascinating, and Firaxis’ choice to include them in Civ VI was a worthy one, even though I have some misgivings about the portrayal (for one thing, Afonso I was way more Western in dress and name than he is shown having in Civ VI, but I think that was to ward off any potential colonial implications, though Mvemba was an early and willing convert to many Portuguese customs and their religion both).

    I do wonder sometimes where those Civilopedia entries are sourced from. Many seem to be sourced from Wikipedia, but not all statements can have come from there.
     
  11. Lonecat Nekophrodite

    Lonecat Nekophrodite King

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2019
    Messages:
    618
    Gender:
    Male
    So if Kongo after Mvemba a Nzinga became more closely tied to Portugal and did manage to raise standing army then they should use Portugese Blue as their uniform with turban or songkok as headwear or what? It's hypothetic phase now. your call.
     
  12. raen

    raen Coat of Arms

    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Messages:
    2,216
    Location:
    Portugal
    Let me see if I find it yet.
     
  13. Askia Muhammad

    Askia Muhammad Chieftain

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2019
    Messages:
    29
    Gender:
    Male
    I am currently in graduate school studying African History. My area of expertise is actually nineteenth-century Islamic kingdoms in West Africa but I am pretty familiar with the general history of the Kongo as well. Please forgive me as I don't have any texts on hand (am currently working) to provide exact citations but here are a few notes:

    The idea that Portugal was vastly superior to Kongo in terms of organization/development is not entirely accurate especially at the time of their meeting in the late 1400's there was hardly any difference in political organization between the two (both were highly centralized monarchies) technologically the Portuguese enjoyed an advantage in naval technologies but their crude firearms were very ineffective and could be and were beaten many times by skilled archers (generally).

    Portugal and the Kongo had concluded multiple trading agreements and generally the early relations were positive. Kongo was even guaranteed a monopoly on trade along their coastline and did benefit (albeit unequally) from these arrangements. This commercial relationship characterized much of the early encounters between the two groups. Portuguese traders and communities actually sprung up and became permanent fixtures in the region. As others have mentioned several Kongolese ventured to Portugal for education and historians such as John Thornton conclude that there was a solid understanding of Portuguese culture and society as it was not all that different in organization from that of Kongo.

    Kongo was comprised of large swaths of territories and had a few vassals or loosely affiliated regions as part of its imperial holdings. One such region was that of Ndongo. This was another kingdom the Portuguese were in contact with and one which Kongo was not happy about as it perceived some of the maritime commercial activity as a violation of the monopoly it had concluded with the Portuguese and also the Kongolese king had considered Ndongo as a lesser state under his influence. Ndongo had been rapidly rising in power (aided somewhat by Portuguese involvement). The point is that this growth of Ndongo upset the king of Kongo. In response they tightened trade restrictions with the Portuguese but it was too late. Traders had begun to violate the treaties and begun slave raiding expeditions against the wishes of Kongo. This combined with the fact that Ndongo and other groups were militarily pressuring (some even attacking) Kongo led to its demise (over a long period of time). Internal issues have their place but more recent scholarship argues the Portuguese interference in the local market merely accelerated already existing tensions and issues rather than caused the decline of the kingdom itself (it was not formally apart of Portugal until it was absorbed in Angolan territory much much later)

    Ana Nzinga, sometimes called Njinga was a woman who actually hailed from Ndongo originally. She was removed from power when another claim to the throne asserted a woman could not rule. She eventually seized control of a nearby kingdom Matamba and conquered Ndongo to reclaim her throne. She concluded agreements with the Portuguese as well and obtained firearms through trade deals. Eventually she became upset over issues with the slave trade however and refused to continue trading with the Portuguese. As other's have said she successfully launched military campaigns against the Portuguese and had quite a few impressive victories (she led these troops in person herself and her victories came even without the help of the Dutch). She eventually manipulated internal divisions between the Portuguese and Dutch and for a time fought with the Dutch against the Portuguese (Similarly to Samori Toure in Guinea about two centuries later). The Dutch were eventually defeated but Nzinga continued to lead troops against Portugal for many years afterwords even though after a time she was forced to resort to guerilla methods.

    Today she is revered in Angola as a figure of resistance and for her political skills. Jan Vansina was an early pioneer covering the history of the area making use of Kongolese sources among other things.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2019
    Uberfrog and hobbsyoyo like this.
  14. Askia Muhammad

    Askia Muhammad Chieftain

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2019
    Messages:
    29
    Gender:
    Male
    Also Kongo had significant standing army before the Portuguese arrived. It was a highly centralized society with much complexity about its social order and governmental organization.
     
  15. Lonecat Nekophrodite

    Lonecat Nekophrodite King

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2019
    Messages:
    618
    Gender:
    Male
    How did Kongolese 'Army' looks like by the time Portugese arrived. and by the time they bought portugese arquebuses
     
  16. leif erikson

    leif erikson Game of the Month Fanatic Administrator Supporter GOTM Staff

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2003
    Messages:
    26,421
    Location:
    Plymouth, MA
  17. Askia Muhammad

    Askia Muhammad Chieftain

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2019
    Messages:
    29
    Gender:
    Male
    Prior to meeting the Portuguese, the Kongo utilized primarily iron-based weapons including but not limited to swords and axes. Blacksmiths played an important cultural and practical purpose in Kongolese society. They were tied in many ways to religious practices and the Kongo empire had extensive trading connections that allowed it to field a large iron-based military and also iron tools and trinkets played important cultural roles. Blacksmiths were considered to be far more than simple artisans.

    Kongo traded largely slaves but also other commodities to the Portuguese in exchange for European luxuries, cloth, and firearms. Kongolese iron was actually of better quality than most European iron/steel due to its higher carbon content and masterful work by Kongolese blacksmiths. Portuguese only traded finished iron in the form of firearms to the Kongo because otherwise the Kongolese iron was superior.

    After trade began the Kongo and other kingdoms in the area utilized some musket technology but also a great deal of flintlock based firearms (not arquebuses). The advantages are obvious in that it takes far less training to be effective with a firearm than combat with melee weapons. The later firearms did give kingdoms that utilized them a distinct advantage though. It is important to state that the "technological" advantages of European weaponry have been greatly overstated and weren't clearly pronounced until the mid-nineteenth century with weapons like the Maxim gun.
     
  18. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2006
    Messages:
    11,843
    Quite a few years ago I got interested in the history of Congo and even read many of the 16th century letters and chronicles. A surprising number of old documents survived abot that region of Africa, though they mostly give the portuguese perspecitive and focus on its topics of interest. I don'ty have my library handy at the moment but can offer some answers some from memory.

    1) Portuguese military support to the Kingdom of Congo was irrelevant at the time. No large (for the time) organized expeditions with euopean solders were attempted, unlike in Ethiopia. Ethiopia was under threat from turkish vassals, an enemy of Portugal at the time, which justified an intervention. Congo was not. Some weapons may have been provided to the nobles who occupied the territory nearer the coast, I do not recall now the name of one that was mentioned. I'll check later, I seem to recall that one even got a cannon.

    2) Portugal did intervenne in the civil wars by supporting some factions, but the interior or Africa in that region was always extremely deadly to europeans up until the 20th century. Africa mercenaries were used. Brazilians had no survival advantage compared to europeans in that area, indeed the portuguese colonists in Brazil were europeans.

    3) There was a large-scale attempt- in the late 18th century, to occupy areas off the coast of Africa, towards the interior of present-day Angola. In Portyugal the old medieval tradition of sendind convicts to the most inhospitable land of the kingdom was updated to sent them to man forts in this area. Thousands of people were engaged in the effort, silver currency for the new colony was minted, and trade (mostly beeswax, ivory and slaves) increased. But a series of factors doomed this effort. Only convicts would go (be moved...) there, freemen would rather move to Brazil where a contemporary gold later diamond rush were a powerful attractive. The colony required constant investment, rather than be profitable. When Brazil split from the kindgom the strategic value of Angola was reduced, it was only a waypost to Asia rather that the source of slaves and strategic defensive post to the major colony across the Atlantic. Finally the civil wars that dragged on and off in Portugal until the 1840s cut off any ability to invest there.

    4) In the 16th century (and later) Portugal's population was rather small. Many of those who embarked as soldiers on the fleets to the colonies were mercenaries drawn from elsewhere in Europe. They would not form an unifrom army. The top jobs in the colonies (governors, captains) always went to the old nobility, but ambitious adventures did not necessarily obey them. There were also cases of feuds among those old nobles. In the 16th century Asia was the prize and where most of the effort got deployed, Africa and Brazil were minor interests.

    I do not believe that Congo ever raised a standing army, and certainly not one with european-style uniforms. Imported cloth would be a luxury, not for mere soldiers. Nobles might wear it. Local cloth, of which there was production from vegetal fibers in Congo, was not dyed blue. And was expensive in itself, to the point where it was used as currency. The portuguese currency in Angola took the name of the cloth units used as currency there (macuta). Local currency also included copper objects and salt bars from local mines. In Angola the practice of paying local soldiers with the cloth currency was only definitively abolished in 1912.

    This specific statement is simply wrong. One was building an empire across the world, the other was concerned with defending its own borders against cannibal tribes. There was a marked disparity in organizational ability and technology level. The "crude firearms" of those europeans at the time were conquering major cities that controlled trade in the Indian Ocean, itself a more advanced region of the world. The Japanese copied those firearms by the thousands in a few years, there was a country with sophisticated blacksmiths. African blacksmiths never managed such mass production of firearms independently and that inability inability would cost them dearly when, three centuries after this, they were sill unable to do sophisticated metalwork and the europeans reached an agreement (the Brussels Conference of 1890) embargoing the sale of firearms to african polities as a strep on the attack and conquest of the whole continent. Disguised as "humanitarian preoccupation" of course, the justification for the embargo was that those natives were fighting wars and enslaving people with european weapons, the good thing to do was cut off the supply of weapons. Entire coincidental that the continent was also to be "effectively occupied" by european troops at the time and it would be bloody inconvenient if the natives had weapons and ammunition to fight back!

    Also, the quick adoption and massive use of european-style weaponry in Japan at the time shows that it was very much useful when the goal is to actually win competitive wars. Bows and crossbows disappeared wherever people needed to fight wars to win and could procure or produce firearms. Lances, pikes and swords would be used for a long time still, true, but those were other specialized uses, all were used in mixed-weapons tactics.

    Though Congo was indeed comparatively well developed in that area of the world, it suffered from a series of problems that can only be described as backwardness compared to the organizational and technical levels in the eurasian landmass of the time. It had lacked a written language (though it did adopt one quickly enough). It lacked a standardized currency, instead had several some of which it didn't control (copper, shells, salt from outside its borders), some of which it produced but were problematic as currency (cloth wore out quickly).

    What protected Congo, and most of Africa, for many years were lack of interest for it among aggressive outside powers more interested in other areas, and the inhospitable nature of the region. In the one case of a polity in the african interior where firearms and foreign soldiers were introduced in small numbers into the local conflicts, Ethiopia, they seem to have had little effect only because no one followed up: Ethiopia was too remote.

    Also, it can be argued that the main immediate impact of firearms in the Congo area was not in warfare but rather in hunting. The ivory trade was increased, and made easier, due to the availability of such weapons. Though this would come in a later chapter of the local history, not the 16th century.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2019
    Ajidica likes this.
  19. Askia Muhammad

    Askia Muhammad Chieftain

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2019
    Messages:
    29
    Gender:
    Male
    The Portuguese specifically were VERY interested in West Africa as they sought the massive wealth of the Sudanic kingdoms (Ghana, Mali, Songhai). Its simply false that there was a lack of interest. Its true they didn't dedicate huge amounts of troops but they did construct several forts and one of their stated purposes was trying to tap into the immense wealth of the trans-saharan gold routes that fed Europe nearly all of its gold.

    The firearms used by the Portuguese when they first encountered Kongo were not nearly as effective as your making them out to be. During early encounters there were still some weapons that utilized flash pans and thus had to be lit with a match by hand. The weapons were VERY ineffective when utilized by small groups of soldiers. Their effect was powerful in a volley only. These mechanisms were replaced by the Matchlock system which itself improved accuracy and ease of use (users could actually aim and didn't have to light the gunpowder by hand) but the weapons weren't truly deadly until Flintlock and triggers were installed. This was WELL after the two kingdoms first made contact (200 years or more). This is specifically the batch of generalizations and mistakes typically made that John Thornton points out in his article below "Early Kongo-Portuguese Relations".

    When I spoke of development, yes its pretty obvious the Portuguese possessed significant advantages with naval technology. I was speaking mostly of the organization of the polity which itself was a formal monarchy with quite a bit of complexity. Thornton points out the similarities wit the Portuguese system in his article about early contact and dispels the myth of the "backward" Kongo.

    Below are a few more recent publications that shed some light given recent evidence. Relying on the Portuguese documents alone is also foolish. The African's who were taken as slaves thought the Europeans were cannibals and wanted to use their skeletons for flag posts on their ships. They even believed the red on flags was the blood of "moors". This is a classic example of antiquated materials being used by eurocentric historians to prove "a point" (the term "tribe" being used to describe nascent nation states with well established social caste systems and formal monarchs as in the case of Ndongo which you referred to as a "cannibalistic tribe"). Relying on one basis of evidence (Indigenous or European) isn't going to give you a complete picture.



    Thornton, John. "Early Kongo-Portuguese Relations: A New Interpretation." History in Africa 8 (1981): 183-204. doi:10.2307/3171515.

    https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1329&context=adan <- A report detailing the superior qualities of Kongo-made iron when compared with cheaper work by Europeans (though yes, Europeans manufactured far more and did use it for firearms, it was just a much lower cheaper grade and wasn't crafted as well)

    THORNTON, JOHN, and ANDREA MOSTERMAN. "A RE-INTERPRETATION OF THE KONGO-PORTUGUESE WAR OF 1622 ACCORDING TO NEW DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE." The Journal of African History 51, no. 2 (2010): 235-48. www.jstor.org/stable/40985072.

    Heywood, Linda M. "Slavery and Its Transformation in the Kingdom of Kongo: 1491-1800." The Journal of African History 50, no. 1 (2009): 1-22. www.jstor.org/stable/40206695. <- the usefulness of this article is showing how Kongo was engaged in military expansion during the sixteenth century. For OP, Heywood wrote an excellent book about Njinga also.

    Thornton, John. "Cannibals, Witches, and Slave Traders in the Atlantic World." The William and Mary Quarterly 60, no. 2 (2003): 273-94. doi:10.2307/3491764. <- an account of African fears of the European cannibals.

    I apologize if Jstor isn't readable by everyone but thats basically the only place your going to find a lot of up to date credible information. Nearly all of the books published before 1970 aren't going to be very credible either due to a nationalist bent by Africanists or an extreme eurocentric bias by imperial historians such as Robinson and Gallagher or John Fage etc. (I'm much more familiar with British and French sources).
     
    hobbsyoyo likes this.
  20. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2006
    Messages:
    11,843
    Early on that was true, but the gold trade declined at this source in the late 15th century. So much that when the dutch took Mina in 1637 it was defended by a handful of soldiers. At its peak the gold trade from the Gold Coast was about half a ton/year, declining to about 400kg/year in the first half of the 16th century and 200 kg/year in the second (Pereira, João Cordeiro, “Resgate do ouro na Costa da Mina nos reinados de D. João III e D. Sebastião”, Stvdia n.50, 1991, Lisboa). Whereas in the mid 18th century the gold trade from Brazil reached an average of 15 tons/year. Brazil became a far more attractive colony that any in Africa.

    I will read those papers I can access, but the fact remains that the sole primary written sources available about that era (16th century) are the surviving portuguese administrative documents, trader/adventurer's reports, and a few from missionaries. Even Pigaffeta's Relatione is a secondary source, reporting Lopes' stories. There simply was no one else in the region and era both writing and archiving the documents produced. Oral histories spanning centuries are, everyone knows, entirely unreliable. Archeology is still poorly developed there and most materials were perishable, in an unforgiving climate. There are rather fierce local disputes about how old the Kingdom of Congo is, some local nationalists desperately wait it to be very ancient but the archeological record so far cannot prove that. And comparisons with other areas or later times are unreliable.

    This seems to rely mostly on a late 17th century secondary source and late (19th/20th century) observations of how local iron-working was done, assuming it hadn't changed. In any case it is true that ironworking was well known and practiced in many areas, and fully satisfied local needs. The only practical advantage that european iron might have would be if it was cheaper. But given transportation costs trade in raw iron so far away would not make much sense... which just led me to look at, and discover, the interesting story of an early colonial attempt at ironworks in Angola, thanks!

    This seems to rely mostly on a late 17th century secondary source and late (19th/20th century) observations of how local iron-working was done, assuming it hadn't changed. In any case it is true that ironworking was well known and practiced in many areas, and fully satisfied local needs. The only practical advantage that european iron might have would be if it was cheaper. But given transportation costs trade in raw iron so far away would not make much sense... which just led me to look at, and discover, the interesting story of an early colonial attempt at ironworks in Angola, thanks!

    The paper you mentioned says at one point:

    The author of this paper gets his terms wrong, which is understandable as he is quoting secondary sources... but not a good sign! It was called "Real Fábrica de Ferro de Nova Oeiras", not "Novas Oerias". Nova Oeiras was near Massangano, in Cambambe, Angola.
    But it seems to me that he is also wrong on his conclusions on that segment, which I can only call fanciful at best. The foundry was not unsuccessful because of any inferiority of european techniques. It was stated with local workers and local techniques, in 1766. In fact all the european blacksmiths sent there to oversee the works kept dying from local diseases before they could set up the factory. In 1767 the first 3 hired in Bahia died before even arriving. In 1768 4 new hires from Biscay survived long enough to arrive, but were all dead by January 1769! The factory was built but manufacture continued exclusively with african blacksmiths until a few prisoners from Europe were deported there (no master blacksmith would go on their own free will...) in 1770. Cynically, 30 were sent this time "because precisely almost all of them will sicked and some die, it is necessary to send enough to make up for that". But by this time the governor Francisco de Sousa Coutinho lost his optimism for development of manufactures in Africa. He was replaced in 1772 with a new governor who wrote of the project "it was a total chimera... harms the royal treasury with a huge expense and sacrifices no small number of lives in these unfruitful endeavors... I ordered all work suspended on the material of that factory." A contemporary report notes that 77 europeans and hundreds of Africas had died in the "evil climate" of the region. There are records that on the whole about 7400kg of iron was produced and exported to Lisbon, in 1767 and 1768. No further production is recorded.
    (Source: Uma Tentativa De Fomento Industrial Na Angola Setecentista: A Fábrica Do Ferro De Nova Oeiras (1766-1772), Africana Studia N.C10, 2007, Revista Internacional de Estudos Africanos, Centro de Estudos Africanos, Universidade do Porto)

    Sousa Coutinho's son, Rodrigo de Sousa Coutinho, would continue what seems to have been a family inclination to estabelish ironworks on new lands :D this time successfully, he founded the Real Fábrica de Ferro São João do Ipanema in Brazil, which would start the large-scale iron industry in the country.

    The purpose of the foundry works in Nova Oeiras was to produce iron for export, to supply the needs of the government in Brazil and even in Portugal. Not to replace the local production. Iron ore is widespread, refined iron for working could be sourced from relatively near, and village blacksmiths were common. Even in Europe it was common right into the 20th century to find village blacksmiths producing iron goods for the local needs: hoes, axes, etc. They eventually bought industrial iron and steel to transform (rather than refine ore) after the industrial revolution, but the final production of some goods remained decentralized for a long time even after that.
    John Thornton, whom he cites, was notable for defending (he's not alone in that, imo correctly) that the african trade networks were not easily disrupted by the europeans on the coast, and that effective control of those remained with africans until the colonial era. The continued decentralized production of iron was explained not by any technical superiority but by its economic superiority.

    Sousa Coutinho in fact commented on the skill of the local workers: "it pains us to see that in this centre of barbarity and ignorance the said barbarians will exceed us in knowledge because without means and without industry they will satisfy their needs and enjoy the benefits of heaven in the prodigious mines of this most precious metal [iron]". It seems to me that he did not meant that the locals were superior in technical knowledge, but that they could easily become should modern production techniques be introduced, and were already more skilled in supplying local needs. Sousa Coutinho's aim was to develop the colony of Angola beyond its role of supplier of ivory and slaves, much as his son would go on to develop independent Brazil. Hence the project of a factory that would employ only a few europeans to introduce those techniques but rely on african workers, preferably attracted through offering wages and benefits. Sadly a combination of harsh environment and officers who lacked his vision doomed this project of development, during the time when the Ancient Regime social norms could still accommodate different concepts of property and authority. The late 19th and 20th century colonization of Africa would be far less accommodating towards what existed.

    There is an interesting work on the ironmaking traditions of Angola and the Nova Oeiras foundry, regrettably I can only provide a link for it in Portuguese. It had been published as a book, there may be an english translation.

    As for quality considerations, it is impossible to generalize comparisons of iron products of one continent against iron of another. Ironworking was still not much of a science and its quality depended on the specific place of manufacture. I seem to recall reading that swedish iron was dominant in the international trade in Europe, and regarded as better that english iron until the 19th century. I expect that african iron products would be even more diverse in quality.

    I won't be able to read these anytime soon.

    This I could not find now but I am rather curious. Regarding the "cannibalism" reports, they need to be taken cautiously. It was a usual accusation made against inconvenient enemies to justify war, also in Brazil. Some might be true. others might not. Those in Angola against whom the accusation was most often made (the "jagas") acted as mercenaries for diverse powers, hence had no lack of enemies. All accounts about them are negative, in part due to their role as invaders and mercenary soldiers. But the term itself does not designate a specific group, it came to designate the "bloodthirsty" enemies (or unreliable allies).
    The reports about fear of slavers as cannibals seem logical but I wonder at how much of it was fanciful. Where cannibalism was practiced a the region and the slave trade towards the coast was unknown, it would make sense for captives to fear strangers with an unexplained appetite to take away people. It qualm is still in that where: it seems to me that if (when) the slaves came mostly from the local population of Congo and other kingdoms near the coast then the slave trade would have been familiar. If they came from captives taken from among other people it could arise. Though I doubt any definitive answer can ever be given, I am inclined to believe that most of the slaves came from the coastal area which had long-time contacts with europeans and knew enough about them to see that the aim of slavery was slave labour, not eating people.

    But this is kind of off-topic, it's about events after the 16th century. I will dig out the copies I have of 16th century letters and reports about the area and see if they have something useful to add, for the questions in the thread. May take a while.

    Of interest to the OP may be one fact: if there is any interest for a Civ mod to represent territorial portuguese influence near the Kingdom of Congo, the period to look at is the 18th century, not the 16th. the 1760s and 1770s were the time whet a real attempt was made to occupy the interior and build a "real colony" in Angola, as was being done in Brazil. This effort faltered in face of the harsh conditions of the interior and the much more attractive alternative of Brazil, and was abandoned when Portugal was overrun by Napoleon's wars and all government support for it ended for a century or so.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2019
    Ajidica likes this.

Share This Page