"Angolan history," Basil Davidson has written ( 1975:54), "reflects a sequence of African initiatives and responses to direct or indirect outside challenge. In various ways and under various leaders, Angolan people sought to contain the challenge from outside, or absorb it, or turn it into their advantage." "This way of looking at the past," he continued, "serves as a useful corrective to the familiar 'no-heart- beating' school of thought: The notion that Africa stood still before it felt the guiding hand of Europe, but afterwards became the more or less helpless objects of European policy and precepts."
Davidson wrote these words on the eve of Angolan independence, after the country had endured fifteen years of armed struggle. If we view Angolan history from a less emotional point in time than when victory over the Portuguese was imminent, there is little doubt that the foreign intervenors have had the upper hand in the relationship and have been devastating for developments in Angola. Four hundred years under Portuguese rule drained the country of human and material resources and left scars in the basic fabric of society that are still not healed. The initiatives and responses from Angola have thus taken place within a set of constraints that have severely limited the options for alternative forms of development. In any case, however, Angola's history is rich and dramatic. And the theme of initiatives and responses to outside challenge, as we shall see in the following chapters, has also been important after independence.
Before embarking on this investigation of Angola's historical development and struggle for independence, however, it should be emphasized that the historical information about Angola is limited and often of dubious quality.1 It is generally based on accounts by Portuguese missionaries, traders and officials, older ethnog-