History, Ivory and Slaves
ivory trade, Zambezi Valley, American traders, Inhambane, Banditry
Despite their eviction from the highlands, 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.
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 Reunion. 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. By 1800 Mozambique had become one of the world’s major slave-trading centers. 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.
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