Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

East Africa

Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

East Africa

Article excerpt

East Africa. Edited by Malyn Newitt. Portuguese Encounters with the World in the Age of the Discoveries. Aldershot and Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2002. Pp. xxxii, 192; 2 maps, 12 illus., cloth, $79.95/£45.00.

This excellent collection gathers together fifty-two primary sources or excerpts from primary sources illustrating Portuguese activities in East, Southeast, and Southern Africa from Vasco da Gama's voyage of 1498 to the end of the Portuguese presence on the Zimbabwe plateau in 1695. Although some of the material relates to the Portuguese on the East African coast, and to shipwrecks on the coast of Natal, the bulk of the documents deal with the Portuguese penetration of the Zambezi valley and the Zimbabwe plateau.

Newitt anchors the documents in a seventeen-page introduction that provides an overview of themes to be covered in the course of the book. This is a very helpful guide to newcomers to the discipline, and it obviates the need for a great deal of potentially repetitive introduction and annotation on the documents themselves. Each document, in turn, is introduced by a brief context-establishing paragraph or two, and full citations to the original locations and other translations are noted.

Newitt has a wide variety of documents to choose from, since there are nine thick volumes of original materials on the subject published as early as the late nineteenth century by G. M. Theal,1 and then another nine equally thick volumes in the collection Documents on the Portuguese in Mozambique and Central Africa.2 Newitt draws heavily from both collections, as well as other documents found elsewhere, a good number of which have never been translated into English before.

The collection includes work that must be considered standards, several versions of Da Gama's visits to the coast, Diogo de Alcáçova and António Fernandes's early descriptions of the Mutapa Kingdom, important extracts on the mission of the Jesuit Gonçalo Silveira to the court of the Mutapa king, the Bareto-Homem expeditions and the short-lived and ineffective conquest of Mutapa, and the tale of Portuguese involvement and eventually expulsion from the Zimbabwe plateau in the seventeenth century. …

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