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Bible Encyclopedias
Portuguese East Africa

The Catholic Encyclopedia

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Portuguese East Africa consists of the Province of Mozambique. Portuguese activity on that coast began in 1505 with the foundation of the Captaincy of Sofala, and in 1558 a fortress was built at Mozambique, the port of call for ships bound to and from India, and the centre from which the discoverers penetrated into the interior, over-running the native empire of Monomotapa in the quest of gold. For centuries these territories were ruled from Goa, but in 1752 they became an independent government, though, until recently, Portuguese authority was almost limited to the cost line. While much diminished in size by virtue of the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty (11 June, 1891), which settled a serious boundary quarrel with England, the province comprises 1428 miles of coast line from Cape Delgado to the southern limit of the district of Lourenço Marques, with a superficial area of 292,631 squares miles. The greater part of the sea coast is low lying, with coral reefs, sand dunes and swamps, and the climate is hot and unhealthful, but the hinterland has mountainous districts and elevated table lands which are suitable for European colonization. The mean annual temperature is high. The rainy season lasts from November to March, the cool, from April to August. The province is served by a number of fine harbours, including Lourenço Marques, the best in south-east Africa, which is connected with the Transvaal by a railway, Beira, the outlet for the produce of the Mashona gold fields and joined to them by rail, Inhambane, Chinde, Quilimane, Ibo, and Mozambique. Besides the river Zambesi and its tributaries, other large rivers give communication to the interior, such as the Incomati and the Limpopo, and Lake Nyassa, with an area of 11,551 square miles, is on the frontier between Portuguese and British territory. Mozambique is connected with Europe by several lines of steamers, English, German, and Portuguese.

For administrative purposes the province is divided into the following districts, Mozambique, Zambezia, Tete, Inhambane, Lourenço Marques and the military district of Gaza, each having a governor, while there is also a governor-general for the province who resides in Lourenço Marques. Major Freire de Andrade, the late governor-general, did much for the progress of the colony which of late has been rapid. Its commercial movement in 1892 was valued at 4951 contos de reis, but in 1901 it had reached 21,542 contos, and that of the Port of Lourenço Marques increased tenfold between 1892 and 1899. Since then the rate of progress has been well maintained. Inland trade is chiefly in the hands of Indians (Banyans), while that of the coast is done by English houses. The system of government by chartered companies, which succeeded in the neighbouring British colonies, has been tried here and the Mozambique and Nyassa Companies have jurisdiction over large territories, undeveloped for lack of funds. It is only recently that the Portuguese Government has completed the occupation of the province. Mozambique is rich in minerals, and among vegetable products sugar is raised in increasing quantities, while the extensive forests have valuable timber trees. The native population is of Bantu race and numbers about three millions. The whites number only a few thousand. For purposes of justice the province is divided into seven comarcas and the town of Mozambique has a Tribunal of Second Instance composed of three judges; for ecclesiastical purposes it has a prelacy with jurisdiction over the city but subordinate to the Patriarch of the East Indies at Goa. A force of 2730 men of the first line form the colonial army and the policing of the rivers and harbours is done by flotillas of gunboats. The custom houses are subordinate to that of Lourenço Marques. Primary schools exist in the principal centres, but very little has been done for education.


Maugham, Portuguese East Africa and Zambesia (London, 1910); Vasconcellos, As Colonias Portuguesas (2nd ed., Lisbon, 1903).

Bibliography Information
Obstat, Nihil. Lafort, Remy, Censor. Entry for 'Portuguese East Africa'. The Catholic Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​p/portuguese-east-africa.html. Robert Appleton Company. New York. 1914.
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