Ways of life under the Portuguese at the coast (1500 – 1700 A.D)

  • Ways of life under the Portuguese at the coast (1500 – 1700 A.D). The 200yrs of Portuguese rule at the coast were characterized by wars, continuous economic decline and decay.
  • The coastal people did not gain from the Portuguese rule at any time.
  • At the same time, the Portuguese did not prosper because of the decline in trade.
  • Trade under the Portuguese rule declined due to the Portuguese corrupt ways of handling affairs.
  • The Portuguese looted the coastal towns of all valuable items for example the gold at Kilwa and Sofala.
  • The Portuguese denied the Africans a chance of participating in trade and they stole all the Proceeds from the trade.
  • Towns were demolished and burnt during the Portuguese rule for example Mombasa and Kilwa lost their beautiful buildings.
  • People greatly suffered during the Portuguese rule for example they were flogged (canned) in public and humiliated for small offenses for example failure to pay tax.
  •  The Portuguese era was also characterized by unfriendliness and isolation.
  • They had their own churches and lived in their own communities.
  •  The Coastal people hated the Portuguese and called them infidels and nick named them ‘Afriti.
  • This was because most of the coastal people were Moslems yet the Portuguese were Christians.
  • Rebellions became the order of the day at the coast as the coastal people always resisted the Portuguese administration in a bid to overthrow them.
  • Life was unproductive, oppressive and disappointing to the Africans.

Why the Portuguese lost control of the coast

  • The Portuguese had very few qualified personnel to administer the coast.
  • Portuguese administrators at the coast were very corrupt and arrogant.
  • Portugal was a very small country with fewer resources to finance the administration of the coast.
  • The Coast was too big (400km) and the Portuguese could not effectively administer.
  • Religious differences i.e. the coastal people were Moslems while the Portuguese were Christians.
  • The Portuguese failed to establish friendship with the coastal people leading to hatred and wars.
  • Language barrier affected them and could not communicate easily with the coastal people.
  • Tropical diseases e.g. malaria claimed many lives of Portuguese reducing their number.
  • The hostile climate at the coast also made their stay at the coast very difficult.
  •  Portugal was too far away from the coast which made communication with their home government difficult.
  • Portugal was forced to unite with Spain in 1640 which meant that Portugal wouldn’t control the coast alone because of the demands of the Union with the Spain.
  • The frequent rebellions at the coast greatly weakened the Portuguese e.g. many lost their lives.
  •  The arrival of more powerful rivals particularly Britain, the Dutch and French traders around the 16th century who also wanted to control the Indian Ocean trade.
  •  The Challenges from the Turkish sea pirates who constantly raided the Portuguese settlements and ships.
  • The climate at the coast also proved harsh and unsuitable to most Portuguese and many died thus reducing their number at the coast.
  • Portugal could not keep fortified garrisons all along the coast, e.g. they only had forts at sofala, Mozambique and Mombasa.
  • The coming of the Oman Arabs in december1698 led to the eventual collapse of the Portuguese rule at the coast.

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