Cape Verde Islands

Sunday 20.10.2019


History (Part 2)

Hisotry - Slavery

History continuation (Part 2)

Henry the Seafarer (1394-1460), pioneer of the Portuguese expeditions, assumed the role of a trailblazer. He conquered Ceuta in 1415, Madeira in 1418 and the Azores in 1431. Henry the Seafarer hired captains of various countries such as Spaniards and Italians to help him achieve this goal. As a result, the Venetian seafarer Aloisio Cadamosto saw the island group on 25 July 1456 while travelling to the Gambia River in keeping with Henry’s orders. But since Cadamosto did not fulfil the criteria of a “discovery“ according to Henry (cartography, description, leaving behind artefacts, demonstration of the ability to return), the discovery was officially attributed in 1460 to the Genoese António da Noli, who also was commissioned by Henry. After Henry’s death, Prince Ferdinand of Portugal coordinated the expeditions and sent the seafarer Diego Afonso to Cape Verde for further exploration. Afonso named the islands after the saint for each date of the discovery: São Nicolau on 6 December 1461, Santa Luzia on 13 December 1461, Santo António on 17 January 1462 and São Vicente on 22 January 1462.
In 1461, the first settlement was established in Santiago and became the very first European overseas colony in sub-Saharan Africa. This was followed a short time later by the colonization of Maio as a settlement of shepherds, of Fogo as the residence for colonial townspeople, of Boa Vista as the new domicile for lepers and of Brava. The citizens of Santiago obtained the right to keep slaves in 1472. While the proportion of slaves and free people was still 160 settlers and 30 slaves in Santiago in 1510, there were already 14,000 slaves to 2,000 free people in 1580. From the start of the settlement until 1974, offenders, vagrants and prostitutes were deported to Santiago. Consequently, a concentration camp was built in Tarrafal in 1949. Once Portugal secured the exclusive right to the slave trade on the coast from Senegambia to Guinea in 1466, Ribeira Grande – later called Cidade Velha – became the most important slave trade harbour for a century. In addition, cane sugar and rum was produced and exported, cotton cultivated and processed and meat was sold from the livestock in Maio as supplies for the ships.
A new territorial dispute broke out after the discovery of America in 1492. With the mediation of the pope in 1494, the competitors of Spain and Portugal agreed on a new boundary line in the treaty of Tordesilhas: 370 sea miles west of Cape Verde from the North Pole to the South Pole. The territory to the east of the line was granted to Portugal and the region to the west of the line to Spain.
Portugal was already occupied by the Spaniards in 1580, and Cape Verde was afflicted by Dutch, French and British buccaneers. The economic situation of the islands became increasingly worse, partly because the wars in Europe were accompanied by a decrease in trade. Due to the growing number of pirate attacks and the strategically bad location of Ribeira Grande, the colonial government moved to Praia in 1614.
However, the economic decline also continued in the 18th century to the point that almost half of the island’s population died in 1773 due to a drought period that lasted several years. This was not to be the last one.

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