The Native and Prehistory of Malawi

This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series History of Malawi

One of the preliminary, and sometimes most unexpected lessons learned by the lay student of Southern African is the fact that the signature ‘Negro’ races of the region are not strictly indigenous. The primogenitors of most, in fact, arrived in the region in incremental waves  over many centuries, beginning in the first millennium, in a mass movement that became known to later anthropologists as the Bantu Migrations. The word Bantu itself is an imperfect one, for it is an Nguni term, originating in South Africa, meaning simply ‘people’ or baNtu, ‘the people’.

Political propagandist in the period since recorded history in Africa have tended to make much of this fact. It has been used, for example, in South Africa to justify the continuation of minority rule by dint of the fact that the arrival at the Cape of the first Dutch settlers predated the arrival of the Bantu. This, of course, is a highly simplistic interpretation. It neither excuses nor justifies the excesses of white government, and nor does it offer much scope for expression on the part of the original inhabitants of the region, who were neither white nor Bantu, but a much older people currently labelled Khoisan. These were, and in places remain, a Neolithic hunter/gatherer race of indeterminate history, and who without doubt hold prior claim to almost all of southern, east and central Africa.

The Bantu Migration was less a migration than an expansion. The origins of the phenomenon are broadly accepted to lie within the region of the Niger Delta, but many of the details remain speculative. The route of the expansion has been surmised mainly as a consequence of ongoing linguistic studies, and the tracing of common language roots as they spread south from this region to ultimately cover most, if not all of the sub-Saharan region. The engine of this outward expansion  was desertification, trade and population growth, the latter driven by trade, agriculture and the increasing potential for the exploitation of the landscape by iron. Of course the victims where the older peoples of the region who lacked these technologies, and who lacked both cohesive political organisation and aggression. During the course of the last millennia, as the process unfolded, these people were driven largely to extinction, and disappeared from most of Africa, barely surviving into the 21st century in a very few isolated pockets.

It is in the manner of natural highways that they tend to follow the line of least resistance, and the Great Rift Valley, with its lakes, rivers and uplands, would be one of the most natural of these. Even to this day the main areas of population density in east and sub-equatorial Africa concur with the line of the Great Rift Valley. Most archaeological finds of recent years that plot the ascent of mankind have also tended to be found here, and it is natural to assume that the momentum and direction of the Bantu Migration was also focused along the conduit of the Great Rift Valley.

The Valley itself runs some 6 000km from the Levant in the north to Moçambique in the south, and was formed as a consequence of eastward riding tensions as the early landmass of Gondwanaland fragmented into continents. The principal features of the valley are the half dozen or so major lakes, including Lakes Turkana, Albert, Edward, Tanganyika and Malawi, and the volcanic mountains of Kilimanjaro, Kenya, Karisimbi, Nyiragongo, Elgon and Meru that weave between them. Of the lakes the two behemoths are Tanganyika and Malawi – 32 900km² and 29 600km² respectively – and each with an extensive catchment. Lake Malawi – or Lake Nyasa, Niassa or Nyassa – is the last of these, and effectively marks the southern boundary of the Great Rift Valley itself.

Evidence of early hominid activity has been unearthed in various sites in the vicinity of Lake Malawi, the catchment area of which today forms more or less the boundaries of the modern state of Malawi. Stone age implements have also been unearthed suggesting that human activity existed in the region of the lake between 50 000 and 60 000 years ago, by which time the lake had settled within it’s current area, and barring the density of human population, supported an ecology not greatly differing from that of today.

As has been the case through much of southern Africa, the earliest indisputable record of human activity is the cave paintings of the earliest Khoisan inhabitants, which in the case of Malawi can be dated back as far as 1500BCE. The portraiture in these examples illustrate a people with bushman type features, with rust complexions, short of stature, and known as either the Akafula or Batwa. Also evident is an apparently Eden-like aspect of landscape that supported vast herds of wild animals – buffalo, elephant, a proliferation of antelope, and of course a host of hippopotamus clogging the inlets and estuaries, and sharing the alluvial beaches with congregations of crocodile. The hill country bordering the lake supported open deciduous woodland, with occasional baobabs and numerous dense thickets and gullies leading to the shore. The lake water itself, with inlets and outlets, was sweet and bountiful, with no lesser a diversity of fish life than exists within it today.

The Akafula vanished from the shores of Lake Malawi some 400 years ago, in some instances being pressed ahead of the first tentative parties of Bantu moving south from the fertile southern catchment of Lake Victoria, in other instances intermingling and breeding with them. On occasions wars were fought, since Akafula, in keeping with their relatives throughout the region, were livestock thieves. This occasioned their annihilation in many places, but quite often they were banished and killed for no better reason than that they were in occupation of good land, and others better equipped to keep it, took it.

The Akafula were pygmies after a fashion, simple in outlook, spiritual, content with the simple social organisation of small family groups, and wholly dependent on a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. They were without the means or wherewithal to integrate, politicise, or defend themselves, and simply moved on ahead of the incremental invasion of the Bantu, an iron age people of herders and settlers, larger in stature; more organised, more able, more ambitious. The first Bantu arrivals did not linger in the region, however, and in the periods between waves of migration there was relative peace. The general Bantu tide, however, was never entirely stemmed, and in due course the land to the south of the Lake was filled, and in due course the Nyasa catchment fell to permanent Bantu occupation. The process was neither rapid nor comprehensive, however, and neither wholly violent, and it was not until the early 1700s that the Akafula could be said to have completely vanished with the disappearance of the last of those who could claim with any certainty the distinction of a separate race.

Although many officials histories determine that David Livingstone, famed Scottish missionary/explorer, was the first European to set foot, not only in the Nyasaland region, but in many other areas of the Zambezi catchment, it was in fact the Portuguese who were among the first non-Africans to penetrate inland as far as the lakes. Since the days of Henry the Navigator, and the quest for the Kingdom of Prester John, Portuguese maritime exploration had carried small fleets of caravels in probing voyages down the west coast of Africa, finally in the year 1488 rounding the Cape, and in 1498 reaching India. Recognising the value of trade up the east African coast, at that time being conducted exclusively by maritime Arabs, Portuguese settlements were established up the length of the coast, and the Portuguese entered the east African trade in gold, ivory and slaves, at times in cooperation with the Arabs, but more often in competition.

In 1546 a Portuguese map was produced that indicated a large body of water accurately placed and marked as ‘Lake Maravi’, indicating that the Portuguese, if they had not actually reached the lake, at least knew of it, and knew also that the incumbent Bantu population settled around the lake were known as the Maravi. The Amaravi people arrived in the region as latecomers of the Bantu Migration, originating according to oral tradition from the rain forest belt of equatorial Congo, and by circulatory wanderings eventually arrived at the shores of the Lake that bore their name. The name Maravi is thought to mean rays of light, or starlight, or even flame, causing David Livingstone to ponder the Lake of Stars in a moment of lyrical reflection, as he had also once remarked of Victoria Falls that it was ...a sight so lovely that angles must have paused in their flight.

The focus of what is now regarded as the Maravi Empire became centred on the south western shores of the Lake, from where satellites spread out north up the west shore primarily, but also south along the Shiré River and into the Shiré Highlands. The Amaravi were an iron working and producing people who benefited from the potential for effective transport and communications offered by the lake in order to develop a strong, stable and centralised system of government. The harsh natural selection of life in the Congo had tended to breed a hardy race easily adaptable to the benign conditions on the lakeshore. The prevalence of cattle killing Testse Fly had little effect on the iron producing Amaravi, and the lake itself provided ample protein, while the alluvial plains scattered up the length of the lake provided potential for the cultivation or sorghum and vegetables.

For a period of about 300 years the Amaravi dominated the western lakeshore to the Luangwa River in present day Zambia, their influence extending as far north as the limits of the lake itself, and as far south as the Shiré Highlands and the Shiré River valley. Paramount rulers of the Maravi governed under the title of Kalonga, or Karonga, and held a seat of power of that name situated some three quarters of the way up the lake on the western side. Reports that filtered to the coast of the Amaravi tended to describe a reasonably accomplished people living in a state of relative peace and under a stable system of government. In keeping with Bantu tradition their’s was a conservative, polygamous society, governed on a spiritual level by an animist belief system which was defined by a reverence for a hierarchy of ancestral spirits.

The Amaravi were accomplished mask makers, and used these in variety of ceremonial functions associated with secret societies known as Nyau, to which all men belonged. Nyau performances typically occurred over several days and where a means of merger between the terrestrial realm and that of the governing sprits, and were governed strictly by secret rules and covenants enshrined in the traditions of the society. It was men who tended to attend to these matters, belong to the secret societies, and conduct masking ceremonies, while woman were anchored to temporal matters of fertility, day to day life and regeneration.

The Amaravi shared a common ancestry with associated groups in the region such as the Tambuka, Senga and Nsenga to the north, the Bemba to the west, and to more closely aligned groups such as the Chewa, also known as the Mang’anja, that existed largely under the umbrella of the Amaravi. The Chewa shared similar traditions such as masking and Nyau societies, and unusually practiced a matrilineal system whereby marriage, property and land rights are inherited through the mother.

The three centuries or more of Amaravi dominance of the lake region could be described as a golden period in the regional history of the Bantu. Even as life continued at the measured and unalterable pace of Bantu orthodoxy, in the midst of the Eden like isolation of the southern Rift Valley, changes in the wider world were poising the Amaravi, and indeed many other groups and subgroups throughout east, west and central Africa, for catastrophic changes that would ramificate deep into the future, and indeed right up to the modern age.

In common with most successful societies that achieve a wide and enduring influence, there is a beginning, a middle and an end, and usually the end comes about from a mixture of the internal weakening of an aging society, a cementing of doctrines and traditions that work against dynamism and change, and some sort of an external threat. According to writer and historian Doctor Oliver Ransford, who examined the decline of the Maravi in his 1966 book, Livingstone’s Lake, the process began thanks to the silent agency of a pernicious parasite.

Bilharzia, or Schistosomiasis is an affliction peculiar to the tropics, and in particular of areas of low lying, warm and stagnant water, and is in essence an infestation of the liver and vascular system by a microscopic parasite that enters the body through the skin after exposure to contaminated water. Without treatment infestation is usually rapid and very severe, with the resulting clinical symptoms being bleeding from the bladder and/or intestine resulting in gathering anaemia, apathy and ultimately death.

The widespread and rapid infestation of a population with the Bilharzia parasite would certainly have weakened it, and with the resultant apathy and higher incidences of mortality the fabric of an ordered society would without doubt have begun to unravel, but disease was a fact of life that societies, particularly those in the tropics, lived with, and had lived with since the dawn of time. What might have contributed more to the ultimate demise of the Amaravi than this was the fact that no powerful forces had ever existed in the realm of the lake to challenge them. In broad terms this was because for millennia the southern horizon appeared to have no end, and acute pressures on land and resource simply did not exist. It would only be when the Bantu Migration reached its logical conclusion, that being the end of Africa, that pressures would begin to build, and militancy would supersede the relatively benign pastoralism of ages past.

The Bantu Migration spread south like a wave. Concentrated mainly along the eastern half of the continent, it gathered pace as the Bantu crossed first the Zambezi, and then the Limpopo Rivers. After dividing into two separate channels at the Drakensberg Mountains it washed down the coastal littoral of Natal, eventually confronting the northward looking Boer, hybrid ancestors of the original Dutch East India Company settlers, who had been in occupation of the Cape since 1652.

More or less from that point the direction of the migration was fractured, with those at the head of the line dispersing back, and those at the back pressing forward. Tensions inevitably rose, political amalgamations grew, sides were drawn, and a conflagration of some sort became inevitable. Adding somewhat to the brew was the addition on the east coast of Africa of trade with the Portuguese. This trade introduced wealth, which in turn facilitated power, but most importantly was the contest for both wealth and power, possession of which was defined mainly by who controlled the trade routes to and from Delagoa Bay.

Out of a slough of jostling chieftains, and a fractured kaleidoscope of opposing allegiances, rose an extraordinary man. Shaka Zulu was one among those rare and gifted personalities of human history who are, in a brief moment in time, configured perfectly to the demands of their circumstances. In tumultuous times he possessed the force of character and charisma to mould and dominate a race of people. In a time of violence and tension he was correspondingly ruthless, and in a climate of war he was a general of rare creativity. He brought to warfare on the African continent a precision and direction it had never seen before. At the root of his strategy was cohesion, and at the root of that cohesion was discipline of a type that knew no compromise.

Shaka created a military culture and effected a swathe of conquest that encompassed most of present day KwaZulu/Natal Province of South Africa. In the process a chain reaction of conquest and counter conquest began that ultimately descended into a regime of terror beyond any individual control, and that decimated the population of the coastal plain and the highveld in an event that became known as the Mfecane, or the Burning.

Out of the firestorm of the Mfecane three flaming satellite were torn off that moved north in different directions, setting in motion mini holocausts the effects of which were to be felt more than a 1000 miles to the north. The first of these was Mzilikazi of the Khumalo Clan who fled the wrath of Shaka and carved a path of blood northeast towards the Limpopo, and Shoshangane of the Shangaan, and Zwangendaba of the Angoni, both of whom led refugee groups north through Swaziland and Moçambique, gathering strength as they did, and using the strategies of the Zulu to effect a wide swathe of ruin and desolation along their chosen paths.

Mzilikazi ultimately settled his people, now known as the Matabele, in the land between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, Shoshangane did likewise in the present Gaza Province of Moçambique, but Zwangendaba led his Angoni warriors further north until, crossing the Zambezi, and surging up the Shiré Valley, they finally settled on the shores of the most southerly lake in the Great Rift Valley chain. It was the Angoni, far more than Schistosomiasis, that set in motion the catastrophic disintegration of the Maravi people.

A second factor that heavily influenced the fortunes of the interior people of Africa was the transfer of the seat of government of Sayyid Said bin Sultan Al-Said, Sultan of Oman, from the ancient gulf city of Muscat to the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar. This lent impetus to the regional Arab slave trade.

The Arab slave trade is a phenomenon largely under-appreciated in the matter of global slavery throughout the ages. Ultimately some 18 million black slaves from east and central Africa were transported east across the Red Sea and Indian Ocean to satisfy the markets of the Muslim world. This as compared to some than the 14 million that were transported across the Atlantic to the Americas. While the interior of Africa was largely unknown and unmapped until the second half of the 19th century, the east coast hosted a series of cosmopolitan societies that had evolved over some 1000 years of external contacts with the Near and Middle East. Moslem influence in fact extended from the Persian gulf as far south as the Bay of Sofala in present day Moçambique.

Although no practical East African nation could be said to have existed, influential city states where scattered up the length of the east coast, the most important and powerful being Pate, situated slightly north of Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa and Kilwa, with lesser settlements at Zanzibar, Pemba, Kijiji, Moçambique Island and Sofala. The dominant society was Arabic. It was in Arab hands that almost all authority and mercantile power was concentrated. However, in general the coastal settlements were highly Africanised, populated largely by a Swahili speaking population that acted as middlemen between the Arabs and the sources of trade in the interior. The Swahili were in part a hybridisation of Bantu, Arab, Persian and Indian collectively responsible for a society of significant advancement and sophistication, favourably comparable to the Portuguese of that period, with whom some early interaction occurred. East Africa was part of a much broader and well established Indian Ocean trading complex, and trade was principally in beads, cotton cloth and metal implements which were exchanged with the Bantu for slaves, ivory, beeswax and gold.[i]

That a large residual population of blacks does not exist in the Middle and Far East is thanks in large part to the emasculation of slaves at the point of exit as opposed to those destined for New World markets who were left whole.

Working from Zanzibar, which grew as a consequence into one of the most important global slave entrepóts, and exceedingly wealthy as a consequence, the Arab slave trade crept eastward into the interior under well equipped and organised caravans, each now flying the red flag, and marching under the protection of, the Sultan. While most acted directly against local tribes, others set up trading posts that attracted aggressive tribes of the interior who fermented wars of conquest for the purpose of procurement, and yet others made direct use of proxies who were given money, guns and the religion of Islam in exchanges for services performed against others deeper into the interior. Such was the relationship between the Yao and Maravi.

The Yao are today listed as one of the tribes or peoples of Malawi, but their roots are less distinct. Recognised as being closely associated with the Chewa and Lomwe, the Yao nonetheless trace their origins to a small area between the Lugenda River, a tributary of the Rovuma, which nowadays defines the frontier between Moçambique and Tanzania, and within the vicinity of other related groups, the Mwere, Makua and Makonde, spilling over into Tanzania. The Yao enjoyed a trade relationship between the Arab aligned Swahili of the coast and the tribes of the interior, trading extensively in ivory, slaves, beeswax, tobacco, guns beads and cloth, and in the process absorbing the religious codes of Islam, and many Islamic habits of conduct and dress. [ii]

The Yao were a warrior people, well armed according to the fruits of their trade, and with a degree of acquired sophistication that equipped them well to assume an increased role in the slave trade as it began to accelerate. Their deep trade roots established on both shores of the lake over many generations acted as the bridge, and positioned them well to begin attacks on the degraded Amaravi. By the second half of the 19th century attacks against the Amaravi were becoming regular and sustained as the Yao sought to add supply to the increasing demand for slaves being heard at the markets of Kilwa and Zanzibar.

Meanwhile other pressures were building too. By then the Portuguese had been established on the east coast and at the mouth of the Zambezi River for nearly 300 years. Early contacts with the lake had tended to be friendly, with the first definitive proof of its existence coming to light in around 1616 with one of those marvellous journeys of practical exploration commonly made by the Portuguese in the region, and unusually in this case one that was set down and recorded for posterity. A certain Senhor Gaspar Bocarro, a wealthy trader at the mouth of the Zambezi, sought by means of pioneering a new route to move a quantity of silver out of the region and back to metropolitan Portugal without alerting the Captain of Moçambique, a certain Rui de Melo Sampaio, who could be relied upon either to steal it or return it to Portugal under his own name. Bocarro proposed striking north into what was then barely understood, and wholly unexplored territory, in order to reach the Arab port settlement of Kilwa situated some 600km due east of the northern tip of the Lake.

Sparsely equipped, and poorly informed, Bocarro set off on March 16 1616, first down the Zambezi River from Tete before striking north overland to avoid any contact with the Portuguese authorities in the town of Senna. In due course he reached the Maravi capital situated a short distance south of Lake Malombe, a separate and comparatively small body of water situated at the southern tip of the Lake. There he was impressed by the hospitality he received, and the charm and general deportment of the Maravi who were at that time consolidating their dominance of the lake region. With additional guides he continued north along the east bank of the lake, commenting on its size and clarity, and making a number of observation that would later prove geographically inaccurate, but at the time lent credence to the views of Ptolemy that the Nile rose out of a vast central African lake.

Bocarro reached Kilwa within two months of setting out, a journey of some 1 300km, and emerged unscathed, although disappointed somewhat that tensions between Arab and Portuguese traders on the coast had resulted in the Arabs banning any Portuguese commercial activity from their ports. Bacarro’s epic of exploration, surely one of the most under appreciated in history, ended on an anticlimactic note, and was not built upon or repeated for almost two centuries. Thereafter Portuguese interest shifted from the area of the lake, and the realm of the Amaravi, focusing instead on the Kingdom of the Mwane Mutapa on the central plateau of Mashonaland. In due course, however, colonial development and the demand for slaves shifted the focus back to the coast, and worn out by disappointments, and broken by isolation and fever, the Portuguese tended thereafter to do little but occupy their ports and entrepots and process the long lines of slaves herded in by black slavers. These where factored, selected, sold and shipped off to be worked to death on the plantations of the New World.

In return the Portuguese introduced cassava, sweet potatoes, maize and rice that, along with syphilis and other venereal disease, was perhaps their signature contribution to Africa after 400 years of unbroken colonial occupation of the east coast. Little motivation stirred their interest, exploration had petered out to almost nil, the crusading knights of Christ who once had marched up the Zambezi with the standards of Christendom fluttering in the hot breezes now treated repetitions of malaria with alcohol and slave women, and slowly subsided into a the debauched inertia that would occupy their senses well into the enlightened age when a rush for African territory would grip Portugal’s sister European powers.

This, then, was the general setting of the Lake region. To the south and to the east funnels for the transport of slaves where opening up as in Arabia and the new world the business of slavery began to take on industrial proportions. Throughout the fertile human fields of the Great Rift Valley hordes of Arabs and Arab mixed blood and indigenous proxies where permeating ever deeper into the fabric of African society. Around the Lake the Yao began to penetrate more intensively, with the crack of rifle fire, the snap of whips and rising plumes of smoke heralding long lines of distraught human beings. men and women linked together by slaving sticks, naked, bemused, were marched eastwards or southeast towards the Portuguese settlements of the Zambezi or to Kilwa, and indeed many other coastal entrepots, before then moving on to the central clearing house of Zanzibar, and finally abroad to whatever fate awaited them.

In the meanwhile, the northward migrating Angoni under their mercurial leader Zwangendaba were slowly moving northwards up the coastal plain of Moçambique towards the Zambezi. On 19 November 1835, a date remarkable for a solar eclipse, the river was crossed in the area of the Kebrabassa, after which the north lay open and unimpeded to the march. The various clans at first moved as a body, but with evidence of so much to plunder, and such a large area to cover, they broke up, some moving north, some northwest, some northeast. They followed the line of the Great Rift Valley, one group penetrating as far north as the southern shores of Lake Victoria, all the while maintaining enough cohesion to remain a single people, banking to the west eventually, and surging south again to occupy both shores of Lake Maravi, and some parts of the west Luangwa Valley. In 1845 Zwangendaba died, following a million murdered souls to their grave, while his people went on to reap the Amaravi in a miasma of slaughter and pillage, taking what the Yao had thought to leave, and much, much more besides.

It is in the nature of raiding civilisations, be they Norsemen, Hun or Vandal, to thrive off excess, to kill for the sake of killing, and to leave behind what graphic evidence of horror was needed to propagate a reign of terror. The Angoni were no different, and no different to their cousins the Shangaan, the Matabele, and nor indeed their Zulu parents. While the Yao with their increasing association with the coastal Arabs raided the lands of the Amaravi with a view to commerce, and while elements of the Amaravi themselves did the same, the Angoni seemed to kill on a massive scale for its own sake, burning what they could not carry and killing those who could not carry it. In due course they settled at the edge of the lake, establishing a seasonal pattern of raiding that utilized the dry winter months when rapid movement through the countryside was easy and when crops had been harvested and were ready for plunder. It was also a system that allowed a military culture to sustain itself on little more than fighting ability and terror.

The unity and discipline of the Angoni, inherited from the Zulu, themselves tempered to an incredible degree of rigidity by exposure to the will of Shaka, like carbon pressed into unbreakable alignment by titanic force, were able to cow, terrorise and easily overrun, not only the Amaravi, but other smaller affiliates such as the Tonga and Tambuka, who collectively vastly outnumbered the aggressive newcomers, but where manifestly unable to assert this numerical superiority in any way. This fact both confounded early missionaries and placed them in a conundrum.

Doctor Robert Laws, a very early pioneer of the Livingstonia Mission, recorded in the midst of a particularly rabid seasonal raid a horde of refugees arriving at the Livingstonia Mission in Bandawe, situated midway up the lake on the western shore, begging for sanctuary against the devastation of the countryside. ‘Why do you not defend yourselves?’ He asked. To illustrate his point he held up a single reed, which he easily bent and broke, comparing this to a handful that could not be broken. Unity, he implored, was the key to common defence.[iii]

However, as the firestorm swept over the countryside, and reports came in of incredible atrocities: children hung from trees with a fire kindled underneath, or boiled in a pot with maize meal or rice, people staked out and spread with honey to be eaten alive by red ants, or heaped with dry grass and kindling and burned: Laws was forced to concede that resisting the advance of the Angoni would be futile, and would simply invite greater terror. When asked for guns and powder Laws declined. ‘We have brought the gospel to the Ngoni as well as to you,’ he said, ‘and if we fought them how could they receive us afterwards?’[iv]

By the middle of the 19th century the central lakes region had therefore begun a slide into a scale anarchy that effectively ended the existence of sub-Saharan Africa as a viable human society. Colliding factors of both global and local origin combined to affect, not only the Amaravi, the Chewa and the lakeshore Tonga, but other regions and peoples continent wide. Those penetrating westward from bases along the east coast at times reached as far inland as the headwaters of the Congo River, while others trading off the ‘bulge’ of the west coast, or up the east coast from Loanda to the Congo mouth, began a process of scouring the continent from the west for ever increasing quantities of manpower. Widespread anarchy was achieved primarily as a consequence of the abrupt circulation of enormous wealth within a self-consuming trade. In due course the principals of that trade, namely the Arabs and Portuguese on the east coast, and the Dutch, Danes, British and French on the west, who had for centuries steadily established the ground rules of this diabolical institution, were required to do little more than process the vast numbers of people arriving at the coast, captured in spurious wars, or simply claimed under the principal of survival of fittest, and marched off to the forts and slave markets that ringed the African coast like a garrotte.

This is part one of a series…


[i] Duffy, James. Portugal in Africa. (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA., 1962), p76.

[ii] Olson, James S. The Peoples of Africa: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary, (Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.,1996), p603

[iii] Livingstone, W.P. Laws of Livingstonia, (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1923), p191

[iv] Ibid.

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  • Thanks for a detailed and nicely researched article on an absorbing aspect of southern African history. I’ve included a couple of citations of this page on a FAQ page at my site: http://malawicichlids.com/mw01009.htm

  • Peter Baxter

    Thanks Michael. There will be a handful more to follow.