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Sources for the History of the Southern Border of Mozambique: Preliminary results of a project on the archives of the Portuguese Commission of Cartography

Ana Cristina Roque


Although the Portuguese presence in Mozambique dates back from the 16th century, it was only after the Berlin Conference in 1885 that Portugal felt pushed to an effective occupation of a territory historically considered under Portuguese sovereignty or influence. Commissions were then created for the discussions and agreements to be made mainly with the English and the Germans, as they were also disputing the possession or the influence over the same areas. Africa was to be split between the European nations, the new African countries were sketched according to non-African perspectives and border lines were drawn to bound artificial physical spaces disregarding the local models of occupation and livelihood. As for other African territories, in southern Mozambique the demarcation of the frontier went along with the cartographical surveys in view of the mapping of the all area. These surveys were assigned to the Portuguese Commission of Cartography since 1883 and frequently the Commission team was requested to participate in the negotiations regarding border issues.The archives of this Commission – maps, photos, reports, official correspondence... – belong today to the Tropical Research Institute and provide specific and detailed information on the history of the Southern border of Mozambique, mostly unknown because only recently organized and inventoried. In this sense, the main purpose of this article will be to inform about this corpus of documents and of its importance to all those working or interested on the late 19th century History of Mozambique and of Southern Africa.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229