Cape Verde: Crioulo Colony to Independent Nation

Cape Verde: Crioulo Colony to Independent Nation

Cape Verde: Crioulo Colony to Independent Nation

Cape Verde: Crioulo Colony to Independent Nation


The Cape Verde Islands, an Atlantic archipelago off the coast of Senegal, were first settled during the Portuguese Age of Discovery in the fifteenth century. A "Crioulo" population quickly evolved from a small group of Portuguese settlers and large numbers of slaves from the West African coast. In this important new study, Dr. Richard Lobban sketches Cape Verde's complex history over five centuries, from its role in the slave trade through its years under Portuguese colonial administration and its protracted armed struggle on the Guinea coast for national independence, there and in Cape Verde. Dr. Lobban offers a rich ethnography of the islands, exploring the diverse heritage of Cape Verdeans who have descended from Africans, Europeans, and Luso-Africans. Looking at economics and politics, Lobban reflects on Cape Verde's efforts to achieve economic growth and development, analyzing the move from colonialism to state socialism and on to a privatized market economy built around tourism, fishing, small-scale mining, and agricultural production. He then chronicles Cape Verde's peaceful transition from one-party rule to elections and political pluralism. He concludes with an overview of the prospects for this tiny oceanic nation on a pathway to development.


The Cape Verde islands were uninhabited when they were first reached by the Portuguese in the 1450s. However, given the very close cultural ties between the islands and both Portugal and West Africa, it is worthwhile to consider the long history of these latter areas. the early European settlers and their African slaves imported diverse cultural values, genetic bonds, and various musical and linguistic traditions to the islands. Indeed, the process of becoming and being Cape Verdean fundamentally reflects these earlier origins and the geographic context.

The Earliest Times

From an anthropological perspective, the search for roots can begin with antiquity. All human beings find their hominid ancestry leading back to eastern and southern Africa's savannas millions of years ago. the poorly developed ancient archaeology of the West African savanna has not produced early hominid fossils, but it is not unreasonable to assume that our ancestors ranged there as well. Saharan rock paintings show hunters and gatherers in a much wetter Sahara before 5000 B.C.

Perhaps as early as 3000 to 4000 B.C., agriculture based on rain-fed cultivation of millet and sorghum emerged in the West African savanna, especially along the fertile banks of the Senegal and Niger Rivers. Livestock-herding ancestors of the Saharan Berbers were probably present by 3000 B.C., judging from their images in other rock paintings and from their relatives in North Africa.

Small-scale but permanently settled village society in the savanna emerged in about the second millennium B.C., with livestock, hides, handicrafts, pottery, and some agricultural surplus. Meanwhile, the forested regions of coastal West Africa . . .

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