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Slavery by Any Other Name

African Life under Company Rule in Colonial Mozambique

Eric Allina

Publication Year: 2012

Based on documents from a long-lost and unexplored colonial archive, Slavery by Any Other Name tells the story of how Portugal privatized part of its empire to the Mozambique Company. In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the company governed central Mozambique under a royal charter and built a vast forced labor regime camouflaged by the rhetoric of the civilizing mission.

Oral testimonies from more than one hundred Mozambican elders provide a vital counterpoint to the perspectives of colonial officials detailed in the archival records of the Mozambique Company. Putting elders' voices into dialogue with officials' reports, Eric Allina reconstructs this modern form of slavery, explains the impact this coercive labor system had on Africans’ lives, and describes strategies they used to mitigate or deflect its burdens. In analyzing Africans’ responses to colonial oppression, Allina documents how some Africans succeeded in recovering degrees of sovereignty, not through resistance, but by placing increasing burdens on fellow Africans—a dynamic that paralleled developments throughout much of the continent.

This volume also traces the international debate on slavery, labor, and colonialism that ebbed and flowed during the first several decades of the twentieth century, exploring a conversation that extended from the backwoods of the Mozambique-Zimbabwe borderlands to ministerial offices in Lisbon and London. Slavery by Any Other Name situates this history of forced labor in colonial Africa within the broader and deeper history of empire, slavery, and abolition, showing how colonial rule in Africa simultaneously continued and transformed past forms of bondage.

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xvi

Teaching English in western Kenya more than twenty years ago, I encountered for the first time a hundred- year old belief about race and work in Africa. Michael Lubale, a seventeen- year- old Kenyan, showing me the building site for his future house, explained that he would soon reach the age to move out of the dwelling he shared with his younger brothers and into his own on the family compound...

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pp. 1-16

Slavery has deep historical roots in African societies. Long before the seventeenth century, when Europeans began to buy vast numbers of slaves for their New World colonies, many Africans had been held as slaves, and countless others were sent in servitude across the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.1 Enslavement of Africans by Africans was diverse...

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1. Ending Slavery and Creating Empire in Africa: From the “Indelible Stain” to the “Light of Civilization”

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pp. 17-45

Portugal's presence in southeast Africa began with Vasco da Gama’s arrival on the east African coast in 1498, but conquest did not come until four centuries later, in the age of “high imperialism.” East Africa had not been da Gama’s destination; from the earliest voyages of the 1440s, Portugal’s goal was India and its access to great Asian wealth...

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2. From Law to Practice: “Certain Excesses of Severity”

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pp. 46-71

Toward the end of May 1929, a Mozambican named Massungue advised seven African contract laborers, most likely destined for assignment to Portuguese- run maize farms along the rail line through central Mozambique westward from the coast to then British- ruled Southern Rhodesia. Massungue told the men they could expect the “worst possible treatment” from the labor agent who had sought them out: he would “punish...

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3. The Critiques and Defenses of Modern Slavery: From Without and Within, Above and Below

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pp. 72-89

David Livingstone took Portugal to task, in the 1860s, for failing to eliminate slaving in the areas of Africa to which it laid claim. Had Portugal ever had “a vestige of desire to promote the amelioration of Africa”? He accused Portugal of being an “effete nation” engaged in the “murderous traffic in man.”1 With the passage of the antislavery Brussels Act in 1890 and the resulting more effective coastal patrols, and with greater...

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4. Mobility and Tactical Flight Of Workers, Chiefs, and Villages

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pp. 90-104

The Gaza Empire, founded by refugees from warring that followed the Zulu state’s expansionary conquest in present-day South Africa, occupied much of Mozambique south of the Zambezi River from the 1830s to 1895. Before Gaza was vanquished by Portugal, its soldiers made regular visits to villages in central Mozambique to demand tribute in...

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5. Targeting Chiefs: From “Fictitious Obedience” to “Extraordinary Political Disorder”

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pp. 105-124

In August 1895, Moribane, a chief whose lands lay in central Mozambique’s Manica Province, waited with trepidation the arrival of Ezequiel José Bettancourt, an emissary of the Mozambique Company, which was seeking to impose its authority on the African population.1 As leader of large chiefdom in central Mozambique, and with authority over a sizable population, Moribane was a prime target. Moribane was aware the company...

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6. Seniority and Subordination: Disciplining Youth and Controlling Women’s Labor

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pp. 125-138

The mozambique company's rule, as with colonial administrations elsewhere in Africa, introduced rigidly hierarchical lines of authority. It presupposed a one- way fl ow of power: from the top down. Under the pressure of the colonial regime of forced labor, power relations within African societies—between elders and juniors, between women and men—became more unbalanced.1 People in relatively more secure positions were...

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7. An “Absolute Freedom" Circumscribed and Circumvented: "Employers Chosen of Their Own Free Will”

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pp. 139-157

Any African man between fifteen and sixty could, by law, avoid the Mozambique Company’s forced labor roundups if he found work on his own, practiced a recognized profession (for example, as a teacher or tailor), or cultivated land of a specified minimum area. Many men and older boys struggled to exercise their paper right to choose how to assign their labor power by finding wage work on their own terms before...

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8. Upward Mobility: “Improvement of One’s Social Condition”

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pp. 158-176

The imprint of Salazarismo, the name by which dictator António Salazar’s ruling ideology became known, was evident as early as 1930, when he added the post of minister of the colonies to his powerful primary role as minister of finance. Th e Colonial Act of that year, the foundational document for his management of the empire, asserted that part of...

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Conclusion: Forced Labor’s Legacy

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pp. 177-184

The last of Portugal's royal companies, the Mozambique Company, had outlasted, by more than a decade, its chartered siblings elsewhere in Africa—of Portugal’s creation or otherwise— none of which had survived the 1920s. Company rule in Mozambique came to an end on 18 July 1942, with the end of its charter. Its central Mozambican concession reverted to direct administration by Portugal’s colonial ministry, a post previously...


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pp. 185-228


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pp. 229-242


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pp. 243-255

Illustrations follow page 104

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pp. 256-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780813932750
E-ISBN-10: 0813932750
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813932729
Print-ISBN-10: 0813932726

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 19 b&w illus., 2 maps
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 793806502
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Slavery by Any Other Name

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Forced labor -- Mozambique -- History.
  • Mozambique -- History -- 1891-1975.
  • Mozambique -- Economic conditions -- To 1975.
  • Portugal -- Colonies -- Africa -- Administration.
  • Labor policy -- Mozambique -- History.
  • Companhia de Moçambique -- History.
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