Portuguese in South-East Africa, 1600-1700

By Eric Axelson | Go to book overview

6
THE REVOLT OF MOMBASA

Mombasa had become firmly established as a Portuguese settlement during the first few years of the century. A friar who visited the east coast of Africa in 1606 received a very favourable impression of the heavily wooded and agreeable island. The Portuguese residents occupied 70 houses which lined the road leading from the gate of the fortress of Jesus to the Arab town. He was equally impressed by the culture and friendliness of the Sultan and his son. But in the old town, he recorded, lived "Moors who, although formerly rich, now live in utter poverty",1 in such contrasts lie the seeds of revolt.

The main fear at the beginning of the century, however, was of attack from without: lest the growing prosperity of the European settlement invite attack by fellow Europeans. The Portuguese accordingly urged the inhabitants of the islands under their jurisdiction, by threats and by promises, to discourage any foreign vessel from calling for water, wood or provisions, let alone for trade. In this they were largely successful. Two pinnaces which visited Pemba2 and a vessel which called at Lamu3 were soon sent on their way. Actual hostilities, however, were resorted to only against the Ascension and Union which sailed to the East in 1608. After losing company the former ship anchored off the south-west of Pemba to take in water. The source supplied only a few tuns a day. A seaman invited to visit a village in the interior went but failed to return. On the eleventh and last day of watering some 200 natives ambushed the shore party, but managed to kill only one Englishman and wound another. Off the northern end of the island the ship fell in with three pangaios which were attacked without provocation. There was no resistance, and their 50 men were taken aboard the Ascension. While the Englishmen were looting the vessels the Arab leader drew a hidden knife and killed the master; two other officers were wounded; but the seamen overwhelmed the Arabs and spared the lives of only five or six of them. Those killed included members of the family of the Sultan of Malindi and Mombasa.4 After this incident the Swahili of the coast

____________________
1
Gaspar de S. Bernardino, Itinerάrio da Índia por terra até ὰ ilha de Chipre. Lisbon, 1953, pp. 52-7. The pages referring to east Africa have been translated by Sir John Gray, who kindly lent me his typescript.
2
Rei to V., 15/2/ 1603, AHEI 10, LM 7, fol. 150, AHU Cod. 282, fol. 119.
3
Rei to V., 23/3/ 1604, AHEI 12, LM 9, fol. 22-3.
4
"'A briefe narration of the fourth voyage to the East-Indies . . . under the commaund of Alexander Sharpey Generall'" Purchas, I, pp. 228-9; "'The voyage of Captain Sharpeigh'" in C. R. Markham (ed.), The Voyages of Sir James Lancaster . . . . London, 1877, pp. 126-7. There were reports of 8 Netherlanders on Pemba in 1608, presumably survivors of shipwreck ( William Keeling, "'A Journall of the Third Voyage . . .'", Purchas, I p. 515).

-78-

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Portuguese in South-East Africa, 1600-1700
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • 1 - SOUTH-EAST AFRICA AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 1
  • 2 - THE SIEGES OF MOÇAMBIQUE 15
  • 3 - ESTÊVÃO DE ATAÍDE 30
  • 4 - DIOGO SIMõES MADEIRA 40
  • 5 - NUNO ÁLVARES PEREIRA 55
  • 6 - THE REVOLT OF MOMBASA 78
  • 7 - THE 1635 SETTLEMENT SCHEME 97
  • 8 - SOUTH-EAST AFRICA, 1637-1651 115
  • 9 - SOUTH-EAST AFRICA, 1652-1671 129
  • 10 - THE 1677 SETTLEMENT SCHEME 144
  • 11 - THE FALL OF MOMBASA 155
  • 12 - SOUTH-EAST AFRICA, 1681-1700 176
  • 13 - SOUTH-EAST AFRICA AT THE CLOSE OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 188
  • Appendix - SHIPWRECKS ON THE SOUTH AFRICAN COAST 196
  • GLOSSARY 209
  • Bibliography 211
  • Index 217
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