Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Book Review: An African Slaving Port on the Atlantic, by Mariana Candido The impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade on the people living in Angola during the seventeenth century onwards was monumental. The Portuguese presence in the Benguelan harbour caused disorder, social strain, and sociocultural transformation for the people specifically residing in Benguela. In the study An African Slaving Port on the Atlantic, Mariana Candido outlines the progression of Benguela starting from the primary Portuguese voyage in the seventeenth century until the mid-nineteenth century. She illustrates Benguela’s inauspicious beginnings and their growth into one of the most important trading ports in the world, and soon after one of the largest slave trading ports.1 The record of the Portuguese existence in Angola is explained in great detail, and Candido attempts to be as neutral as possible when speaking about delicate affairs. Her study on Benguela and its hinterland helps to secure the records of the Central Highlands of Angola according to their unique areas.2 Her study on how the Benguelan slave port affected the Atlantic world is a captivating, and also intelligently and well put-together read for those who want to know how colonialism took over Angola’s ports. The book focuses on the port of Benguela, which had a populous city in Angola, Africa. Candido focuses on the trans-Atlantic slave trade which occurred in Benguela, instead of what she believed had been the more popular studied sites of African ports north of the equator. Her study is the first full-length history of Benguela and its hinterland to be written in English3, as well as one of the first to not be written from the perspective of Portuguese colonial defense. Through her exploration of the Benguela’s port history from the initial relationship established between the local population and the Portuguese beginning in the mid-sixteenth century, Candido shows how slave exports to Spanish America and copper exploitation were the driving forces in the early colonial era.4 She also stresses the role of the local population in the Atlantic slave trade. By bringing together many elements of Benguela, such as the politics, population, cultural aspects, and the role of the Europeans, her conclusion of the study emphasizes the importance of bilateral connections in the South Atlantic in order to understand paradigms in Atlantic history beyond those based on a North Atlantic perspective.5 She uses a variety of different sources to outline her argument, and misses no small detail when delineating her study, from the first Benguela, to her reasons for writing on such a complex and unfamiliar topic, which she argues is vital for understanding the development of African seaports. For her research in regards to her study, Mariana Candido considered colonial documents, reports, official letters, censuses, export data, parish records, official chronicles, and oral traditions collected by missionaries and anthropologists.6 The combination of written and oral history Candido presents paints a picture of the formation of the major highlands, and also reveals the darker history not repeated in oral tradition.7 She dedicates part of her introduction to making the reader aware of the multiple documents in the native Umbundu languages which she had to decipher, as well as many written records which have strong opinions from the African viewpoint, instead of the abundant historic colonial documents from the European perspective. She also makes a note of declaring that in regards to past records of Atlantic slaving ports, she believes that in her multiple debates with historiography she can reshape the typical European accounts of the slave trade, and bring in numerous new contributions to the table, such as those of the Benguelan women, political strife, the impact of slave society in the colonial world, and...
Cited: Candido, Mariana P. An African Slaving Port and the Atlantic World: Benguela and its Hinterland. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2013.
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