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North Africa: ° Algeria ° Egypt ° Libya ° Morocco ° Sudan
West Africa: ° Benin ° Cameroon ° Congo ° Cote d'Ivoire ° Gabon ° (Republic of the) Gambia ° Ghana ° Guinea ° Liberia ° Mauritania ° Mozambique ° Nigeria ° Sao Tome and Principe ° Senegal (Dakar) ° Sierra Leone
East Africa (The Horn of Africa): ° Djibouti ° Kenya ° Eritrea ° Madagascar ° Somalia ° Sudan ° Tanzania ° Zanzibar


Mozambique is considered one of the oldest known (continuously inhabited) areas on the planet; fossil remains of humans and pre-human hominids have been found here dating back over two million years. Its extensive coastline, fronting the Mozambique Channel, which separates mainland Africa from the island of Madagascar, offers some of Africa’s best natural harbours. These have allowed Mozambique an important role in the maritime economy of the Indian Ocean.

Bantu tribes moved into the area, part of which is now Mozambique, from central and west Africa during the third century. The 11th-century empire of the Shona the main ethnic group in modern Zimbabwe covered part of Mozambique; relations between the two peoples are still very close.

Much of the historical data for this period comes from the records of Arab and Indian traders who made contact with the region in the 10th century. Settlements featured stone enclosures, and their inhabitants played an important role in intra-African trade to the west.

Mozambique. 1780. Bonne.

Over the next several centuries, traders from northeastern Africa and later from the Middle East and Asia arrived by sea, prompting ports along the Mozambican coast to flourish. Sofala, among the most prominent ports, developed as a trade center for gold from the interior.

Commercial settlements also developed to the north of Sofala at Angoche, Mozambique Island, the Querimba Islands, and the mouth of the Zambezi River. Beads, cloth, and other goods brought by Arab and Asian traders attracted caravans of agrarian-based traders from inland Mozambique. They in turn distributed the goods to the African interior. A struggle for control of this trade developed, and it was soon won by the cattle-owning chiefs of the Karanga in the south and the Makua in the north. Slave trading was also common throughout this period, in both the coastal and interior regions.

The first European expedition to Mozambique was led by the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama who arrived in 1498. Thereafter, Portuguese influence gradually displaced the Arabs and Indians in the trading system. The Portuguese gradually moved inland, usurping the local rulers and taking over land and mineral resources.

They were eventually evicted, but despite that, the Portuguese gradually extended their control up the Zambezi Valley and north and south along the Mozambican coast. In 1727 they founded a trading post at Inhambane, on the southern coast, and in 1781 they permanently occupied Delagoa Bay, an important location farther south on the site of modern Maputo. Dutch and Austrian traders had briefly settled at Delagoa Bay, and English and American traders had hunted whales and traded ivory with the nearby Nguni and Tonga chiefs. From Delagoa Bay, Portugal controlled a prosperous ivory trade, which in turn attracted caravans from the interior.

Our Lady of Conception, Imhambane, Mozambique.

Church of Our Lady of Conception, Inhambane, Mozanbique.

Built between 1854 and 1870.

At roughly the same time as the rise of the ivory trade, climatic changes and the rise of the slave trade had even greater effects on Mozambique. The trade in slaves, which had existed at a low level before the arrival of Europeans, continued throughout the colonial period, under the hand of African and European traders. By the late 1700s, however, demand for slaves had grown markedly in response to European colonization of Mauritius and R union. When prolonged droughts started in Mozambique in the 1760s and became endemic from the 1790s, crops failed, cattle suffered, chiefdoms faltered, and traditional patterns of long-distance commerce were disrupted. Banditry and slave raiding increased, and large numbers of slaves were brought to the coast.

Chief Tribes of the Zambezi Basin.
Zambia, Mozambique. 1885.

In the 18th century, Mozambique became a major center for the slave trade, an industry which continued to thrive for decades after its official banning in 1842. By this time, Mozambique had become a Portuguese colony, but administration was left to the trading companies who had received long-term leases from Lisbon. By the end of the 19th century, the Portuguese had made boundary agreements with their colonial rivals, the United Kingdom and Germany, and had suppressed much of the African resistance. Authority was given to trading companies such as Mozambique Co., which forced local people to pay taxes and work on the plantations. Hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans were sold to slave traders and sent to the Americas.

Until at least the 1870s, no other form of commerce generated as much profit.

Beira , a well-located city on the Indian Ocean became a commercial center beginning in 1891 as the terminus of a railroad into the interior. Beira has handled the foreign trade of Congo (Kinshasa), Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi as well as of Mozambique.

From 1894 the region known as Portuguese East Africa had a clearly defined shape on European maps. Its western and southern boundaries are imposed upon Portugal in 1891 in a treaty with the more powerful colonial neighbor, Britain. The northern frontier, with German East Africa, was amicably agreed upon in 1894.

Portugal undertook a succession of military campaigns to try and extend colonial rule inland. But its chief method of exploiting the potential of the region was to award large tracts of land to commercial companies chartered for the purpose - along the lines of Rhodes' companies in the neighboring Rhodesias. The largest of these was the Mozambique Company, formed in 1891.

February 4, 1891, Guardian, London, United Kingdom

Portugal. An official denial is given at Lisbon to the statement that the Government had lodged a claim through their Minister in London for a rectification of the frontiers of Goa, involving the cession of a certain amount of territory now included in British India.

The Times correspondent at Paris sends to that paper the text of the much-discussed charter alleged to have been granted by the King of Portugal to the Mozambique Company. It is without date. By the first clause the Government concedes to the Mozambique Company founded by the Act of March 8, 1888

"The administration and working, under the conditions prescribed by the present decree, of the territories of the Mozambique province bounded on the north and north-west by tho Zambesi from its northernmost mouth, and the district of Tete, on the west by the interior boundary of the province, on the south by the river Sabi to its northernmost mouth, and on the east by the ocean. This concession will only become effective when the company has augmented its capital and modified its statutes in harmony with the terms of the present decree."

Clause 2 permits the company to make treaties on certain questions with native chiefs subject to the approval of the Government, and to i t s arbitration (3) if disputes should arise. Clauses 4 and 5 provide that the company shall observe all the treaties present or future made by the Government with any foreign Power, and abstain from any relations with a foreign State disapproved of by the Government. The company may establish (6), with the approval of the Government, sea and land police in its territories; and (7) the judiciary shall be established by t h e Government and paid by the State. The company is to establish (8) schools, and (9) its territories shall be subject to the Portuguese ecclesiastical authorities, and no foreign Mission shall be established there without the leave of the Government. " Nevertheless, liberty of conscience and religious toleration are guaranteed to the inhabitants." The company shall (10) regulate the trade in alcoholic liquors, fire-arms, and powder to prevent their abuse. The company is to aid in colonization (11) and (12-15) render certain services to the Government in peace and war. By clause 16

"The company shall he considered Portuguese in all its effects and shall have its head office at Lisbon. Its personnel, administrative and fiscal, shall always be for tho greater part composed of Portuguese subjects domiciled in Portugal. Antonio Maria de Fontes Pereira de Mello. Portuguese Edition. The chief agent of the company at Lisbon and its principal representative in Africa shall also be of Portuguese nationality and reside respectively on the continental part of the kingdom and the conceded territories. The administrators for the next ten years shall be the present administrators of the company (Colonel Paiva d'Andrade, Lieut.-Col. dos Santos Covreur, and Marquis de Fontes Pereira de Mello)."

The company may establish (17) in countries where sufficient capital is subscribed branch offices, and (18) the Government shall nominate a commission to attend the sittings of the board of directors. The administrative or fiscal officials of the company (19) and the commissioned officers of police shall be for the most part Portuguese subjects, and in any case, subject to Portuguese law. Clause 20 provides for the Punge Railway. Certain rights of commerce, trade, and taxation (21) are conferred upon the company, which most (22) use in all its territory the Portuguese flag, which may bear a distinctive sign. The company may cede (23-25) temporarily the rights granted to the recipients being subject to the taxes established under clause 21, and (26) subject to the Portuguese laws and tribunals. The company shall not (27) transfer any of its rights to a foreign Power. The Government may, after twenty-five years (28), modify the present concession, and enter into possession of part or all the company's property on paying indemnity. The Government shall (29) for twenty-five years levy no taxes on the conceded territories, but Bhall receive 5 per cent, of the net profits of the company (to be increased to 10 per cent, when the dividend reaches 10 per cent.), and in any case a sum not inferior to the net revenue of the State from the said territories in 1889-90. The capital of the company (30) shall be 4,500 eontos of reis in 4,500 reis shares. Clauses 31, 32 and 34, 35 provide for the working of the company, whose concession may be annulled if it fail to comply with the stipulations of the present decree. All trades and professions not expressly reserved to the company may be exercised freely (33) on the conceded territory. Disputed points between the Government and the company shall be subject to arbitration (36), and if within sixty days the company do not increase its capital and modify its statutes as required above the present decree shall be void (37).

It has been reported that and understanding between the Government and the company exists by which all cooperation of British capital will be refused. The Siecle, however, states that M. Bartissol, who has been negotiating for French capital on behalf of the company, was was asked by Mr. Cawston, a director of the British South Africa Company, to allow on behalf of Monomotapa all possible privileges in regard to the subscription of the capital of the Mozambique Company, and that one-half the shares should be reserved for England. M. Bartissol, however, considering that this proposal afforded no guarantee for an understanding, expressed a desire that the two companies should assist one another without in any way subordinating their action to any particular mode of initial subscription. Mr. Cawston, however, informed Renter's agent that

Far from having asked that one-half of the capital should be reserved for British subscription, he affirmed to M. Bartissol that, even had the Portuguese Government allowed the British South Africa Company to negotiate with the Mozambique Company, it would have been impossible for them to take a single share in that company, as some of the provisions Of the charter we're so decidedly unfavourable to British interests that they would lead to a repetition of the Delagoa Bay complications."

Major Serpa Finto, who is now staying in Paris, is said to have stated to a reporter : "The Government told the old Mozambique Company that if they could find sufficient money in France or Belgium not English money it would give them a more extensive concession and greater privileges. I am certain the new concession will he signed very shortly if it is not signed already, as the members of the old company have found the money, and found it in France. There was on Saturday a serious military revolt."

Using the African population as contract labour (in practice differing little from forced labour), the company developed mines and sugar and copra plantations. It also built a railway system to link with the territory of Rhodes's British South Africa Company to the west and with the British Central African Protectorate to the northwest.

The Fortunes of Africa.
The Fortunes of Africa: A 5000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and EndeavorAfrica: A 5,000 year history of wealth, greed, and endeavor. Martin Meredith, Author.
Africa has been coveted for its riches ever since the era of the Pharaohs. In past centuries, it was the lure of gold, ivory, and slaves that drew fortune-seekers, merchant-adventurers, and conquerors from afar. In modern times, the focus of attention is on oil, diamonds, and other valuable minerals. He traces the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms and empires; the spread of Christianity and Islam; the enduring quest for gold and other riches; the exploits of explorers and missionaries; and the impact of European colonization.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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