Adventures of the European Explorers in Africa and the Scramble for Africa

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,709
Portugal
#1
A recent discussion in another thread (Whats with all the racism geared twords African history?) made me realize that among the European Explorers of Africa, in the late 18th and 19th centuries, that lead to the Scramble for Africa, the non-British explorers are not much known in the English Speaking world, and thus, due the fact that we had/have two consecutive English Speaking superpowers, with the natural consequent cultural impact, and that the English is a lingua franca for some two centuries, that can lead to a certain ignorance of explorers of other nationalities such as Portuguese, Germans, French, etc… and the wrong impression that there were only British ones. I don’t want to derail the mentioned thread, since that thread has its one focus, and I think this subject (of the European explorers in Africa) deserves its own thread.

In this thread I will probably speak more about the Portuguese, not because I want to downsize the explorers from the other nationalities (British or non-British) but because I am better informed about the Portuguese than about the others. Thinking about it I have some difficulty to say many names about non-British and non-Portuguese explorers, recently I mentioned some like Werman Wissmann, Carl Peters, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza… but by memory I had difficulty to mention much more. So I would like to invite our fellow members to contribute with more names, or giving interesting information (and sources) about the already mentioned ones. Naturally information and sources about the British explorers is also welcome and relevant to understand the all picture.

I think that it would also be relevant to post here some of the disputes, intellectual and scientific, and of exploration primacy, that influences those men as well as the political and diplomatic environment.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,709
Portugal
#2
I will begin to introduce some Portuguese explorers, some of them still relatively known to the Portuguese public, others almost forgotten, but that at their time had their moments of glory, at the eyes of a Portuguese and European public that was infatuated with the African exploration (in the sense of discover) in a colonialist, imperialist, and often paternalist and even racist perspective. A mentality that in some way was resumed by Rudyard Kipling’s words, taken from a poem, “The White Man's Burden”.

Probably the most known Portuguese explorer of the period, known today and now, is Serpa Pinto and his book “Como eu atravessei a África, do Atlântico ao mar Índico”/ “How I Crossed Africa, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean”

His book is available online Books by Pinto, Alexandre Alberto da Rocha de Serpa (sorted by popularity) (in Portuguese)

And in other languages (including English) in the Internet Archive: Internet Archive Search: (Alexandre de Serpa Pinto), site were also available his conferences about his expedition.

For the basics about the man we can go to wikipedia: Alexandre de Serpa Pinto - Wikipedia

Basically his expeditions objective was to cross Africa, from Angola to Mozambique, at a time when the Portuguese were a second (or third) rate European power but still had imperial dreams in Africa, and claimed, with some legitimacy at those days eyes, a big steak of the Southern part of the continent, that today would include not only Angola and Mozambique, but also wide parts of the kingdom of Congo, a Portuguese Vassal (that lead in part to the formation of the Free State of Congo), and wide areas of what today belong to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi; areas of the Lunda Kindgom of the Muatiânvua, the Lunda Kindgom of the Cambeze, or the Lui Kindgom of the Barotze (I wrote kingdom but often those kingdoms are mentioned as Empires).

This imperial dream lead to the Portuguese document and pretention represented in the Pink Map: Pink Map - Wikipedia

And ultimately lead to the British Ultimatum in 1890: 1890 British Ultimatum - Wikipedia
 
Last edited:
Likes: Yôḥānān

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
4,948
#3
Here's a little exercise:

Wikipedia has a multi-language page of Explorers of Africa. Interestingly the list varies between languages.

English 268 names
French 240 names
German 317 names (German thoroughness ;) )
Italian 140
Russian 122
Spanish 23
Portugese 18
Swedish 35
Etc.

If one wants to get lowdown in who was traveling around 19th c. Africa from one of the smaller languages, one typically will have to go look for them in their respective language. English, French or even German tend not to be sufficient.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,709
Portugal
#4
Here's a little exercise:

Wikipedia has a multi-language page of Explorers of Africa. Interestingly the list varies between languages.

English 268 names
French 240 names
German 317 names (German thoroughness ;) )
Italian 140
Russian 122
Spanish 23
Portugese 18
Swedish 35
Etc.

If one wants to get lowdown in who was traveling around 19th c. Africa from one of the smaller languages, one typically will have to go look for them in their respective language. English, French or even German tend not to be sufficient.
Hi Larrey, thank for the input. As far as I understood those numbers of explorers are of any nationality? Can you provide the link to that Wikipedia multi-language page?

For instance only 18 names for the Portuguese seems quite low, I think that the Portuguese Wikipedia as more entries about African Explorers than 18. Or I am not fully understanding the numbers.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,709
Portugal
#5
Jumping a bit from the more known Portuguese explorers, I would like to mention the figure of Silva Porto and his “dispute” with Livingstone, in part because it was this dispute that also led me to open this thread.

Basics about Silva Porto, again from Wikipedia: António da Silva Porto - Wikipedia

The mentioned Wikipedia entry refers the encounter between the two Europeans: António da Silva Porto - Wikipedia

When Livingstone arrived to the Alto Zambeze (Upper Zambezi), he thought (and claimed) that he was the first white European to arrive there. To his surprise, and in certain way it is surprising that Livingstone was surprised, he found there a Portuguese party led by Silva Porto. The post that I made in the other mentioned thread, I will reproduce it here, it is mostly taken from one of Levingstone’s books, and was in part an answer to other Historium fellow member:

Adding some context to my previous post, I will begin with Livingstone’s words:

“On making inquiries to ascertain whether Santuru, the Moloiana, had ever been visited by white men, I could find no vestige of any such visit;* there is no evidence of any of Santuru's people having ever seen a white man before the arrival of Mr. Oswell and myself in 1851. The people have, it is true, no written records; but any remarkable event here is commemorated in names, as was observed by Park to be the case in the countries he traversed. The year of our arrival is dignified by the name of the year when the white men came, or of Sebituane's death; but they prefer the former, as they avoid, if possible, any direct reference to the departed. After my wife's first visit, great numbers of children were named Ma-Robert, or mother of Robert, her eldest child; others were named Gun, Horse, Wagon, Monare, Jesus, etc.; but though our names, and those of the native Portuguese who came in 1853, were adopted, there is not a trace of any thing of the sort having happened previously among the Barotse: the visit of a white man is such a remarkable event, that, had any taken place during the last three hundred years, there must have remained some tradition of it.

* The Barotse call themselves the Baloiana or little Baloi, as if they had been an offset from Loi, or Lui, as it is often spelt. As Lui had been visited by Portuguese, but its position not well ascertained, my inquiries referred to the identity of Naliele with Lui. On asking the head man of the Mambari party, named Porto, whether he had ever heard of Naliele being visited previously, he replied in the negative, and stated that he "had himself attempted to come from Bihe three times, but had always been prevented by the tribe called Ganguellas." He nearly succeeded in 1852, but was driven back. He now (in 1853) attempted to go eastward from Naliele, but came back to the Barotse on being unable to go beyond Kainko's village, which is situated on the Bashukulompo River, and eight days distant. The whole party was anxious to secure a reward believed to be promised by the Portuguese government. Their want of success confirmed my impression that I ought to go westward. Porto kindly offered to aid me, if I would go with him to Bihe; but when I declined, he preceded me to Loanda, and was publishing his Journal when I arrived at that city. Ben Habib told me that Porto had sent letters to Mozambique by the Arab, Ben Chombo, whom I knew; and he has since asserted, in Portugal, that he himself went to Mozambique as well as his letters!

But Santuru was once visited by the Mambari, and a distinct recollection of that visit is retained. They came to purchase slaves, and both Santuru and his head men refused them permission to buy any of the people. The Makololo quoted this precedent when speaking of the Mambari, and said that they, as the present masters of the country, had as good a right to expel them as Santuru. The Mambari reside near Bihe, under an Ambonda chief named Kangombe. They profess to use the slaves for domestic purposes alone.

Some of these Mambari visited us while at Naliele. They are of the Ambonda family, which inhabits the country southeast of Angola, and speak the Bunda dialect, which is of the same family of languages with the Barotse, Bayeiye, etc., or those black tribes comprehended under the general term Makalaka. They plait their hair in three-fold cords, and lay them carefully down around the sides of the head. They are quite as dark as the Barotse, but have among them a number of half-castes, with their peculiar yellow sickly hue. On inquiring why they had fled on my approach to Linyanti, they let me know that they had a vivid idea of the customs of English cruisers on the coast. They showed also their habits in their own country by digging up and eating, even here where large game abounds, the mice and moles which infest the country. The half-castes, or native Portuguese, could all read and write, and the head of the party, if not a real Portuguese, had European hair, and, influenced probably by the letter of recommendation which I held from the Chevalier Duprat, his most faithful majesty's Arbitrator in the British and Portuguese Mixed Commission at Cape Town, was evidently anxious to show me all the kindness in his power. These persons I feel assured were the first individuals of Portuguese blood who ever saw the Zambesi in the centre of the country, and they had reached it two years after our discovery in 1851.”

David Livingstone, Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, pages 230 and 231, available at: Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa by David Livingstone

Some of the writings of Silva Porto (he was quite prolific) are also available on the Gutenberg project, namely some of the ones he wrote after reading the words of Livingstone, and being shocked with them, and in these writings also telling the names of the Portuguese explorers, some less known, that preceded him:

Silva Porto e Livingstone (in Portuguese).

So, like I said in the previous post it was not an “ups” mistake by Livingstone.

Stating that “there is no evidence of any of Santuru's people having ever seen a white man before the arrival of Mr. Oswell and myself in 1851”,

Calling Silva’s Porto Portuguese expedition a Mambari party;

And mentioning Silva Porto has the head of the Party: “The half-castes, or native Portuguese, could all read and write, and the head of the party, if not a real Portuguese, had European hair…” is more than a huge lie, it was taken as an offense by Silva Porto that was probably so keen of his European roots as Livingstone, and had similar racial prejudices, as usual among the Europeans in that period. Note that in Silva Porto expedition there were Portuguese “mulatos” (half-castes, in Livingstone’s terminology), as Livingstone recognizes (and if I am not mistaken one was even Silva’s Porto son, but here I am talking by memory).

So, pardon me the analogy, but it is like in the dispute between Burton and Speke one calling the other a half-caste. For the 19th century, among white Europeans, it was seen as an insult.

This kind of disputes were quite common in the 19th century (the one between Burton and Speke was quite popularized in the English speaking world, as the ones between Serpa Pinto and Capelo and Ivens were famous in Portugal), but in this kind of dispute between Livingstone and Silva Porto, Liviginstone had the upper hand, not because he was truly, but because with the racial prejudices of the time he downsized Silva Porto, and that served the interests of the British at the time, with the series of events that lead to the 1890 ultimatum, and even to some skirmishes between the forces of the two countries that were, at least in theory, allies.
 
Last edited:

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
4,948
#6
Hi Larrey, thank for the input. As far as I understood those numbers of explorers are of any nationality? Can you provide the link to that Wikipedia multi-language page?

For instance only 18 names for the Portuguese seems quite low, I think that the Portuguese Wikipedia as more entries about African Explorers than 18. Or I am not fully understanding the numbers.
Categoria:Exploradores da África – Wikipédia, a enciclopédia livre

You should have a field at the left hand of the page. Scroll down to "Nuotras linguas" (if using a Portuguese language version), and select the language you want to see African explorers listed in.

Wikipedia displays the lists of languages I've been known to search for info in and so Wikipedia kindly tends to display in those for me, i.e. they will likely vary from yours. But any language with an "African explorers" list page is selectable. And the lists are of explorers generally, all kinds of nationalities. They do however wildly vary in how comprehensive they are, and the more comprehensive, larger language ones, tend to clearly miss travelers and explorers from smaller language areas.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,709
Portugal
#7
Categoria:Exploradores da África – Wikipédia, a enciclopédia livre

You should have a field at the left hand of the page. Scroll down to "Nuotras linguas" (if using a Portuguese language version), and select the language you want to see African explorers listed in.

Wikipedia displays the lists of languages I've been known to search for info in and so Wikipedia kindly tends to display in those for me, i.e. they will likely vary from yours. But any language with an "African explorers" list page is selectable. And the lists are of explorers generally, all kinds of nationalities. They do however wildly vary in how comprehensive they are, and the more comprehensive, larger language ones, tend to clearly miss travelers and explorers from smaller language areas.
Thanks.

Let us stay with the English page as reference: Category:Explorers of Africa - Wikipedia

It can be working tool, with the problem that many explorers here aren’t for the pretended timeline. One thing that I notice is that the list isn’t exhaustive, this means that there are entries for explorers that aren’t listed in this page. Anyway the menioned list give us already the idea that there are exlorers from several origins and nationalities.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,709
Portugal
#8
Back to Livingstone and Silva Porto and their meetings:

The historians Frederico Delgado Rosa and Filipe Verde reconstructed and commented the meetings between the two, on the 13th July, 1853, based on their respective diaries, in their book “Exploradores Portugueses e Reis Africanos / Portuguese explorers and African kings”.

For instance, this is the reconstruction of the first words that they exchanged (the translation to English is mine and it is summarised):

“ – Do you speak English? – Asked Livingstone.

– No.

– French?

– No.

– German?... Italian?

– No.

Silva Porto was somewhat amused with the game, convinced that his interlocutor, being so Polyglot would finally ask if he spoke Portuguese. But the amusement ended when the missionary-explorer asked another question, that would almost seem surreal:

- Latin?”

Anyway it is curious that Livingstone doesn’t ask for Portuguese since often (not so say always) Silva’s Porto party travelled with the Portuguese flag, as later Livingstone mentions with some concern when they are in the Barotze capital at 5 of August.

But in certain way this first questions by Livingstone establish the relations between the two for the next days and even following years. Silva Porto was a “sertanejo”, a bushman, a man probably not that different in knowledge as the Bandeirantes that expanded Brazil to the West, erasing the Treaty of Tordesilhas limits, or many other nameless “sertanejos”, “pombeiros” and “lançados” that had explored and traded in Africa long before him. With the main difference that he was in an official mission and even if he had leaved Portugal with only 12 years old, he knew to read and write and maintained a diary and wrote reports about his expeditions, while Livingstone was well educated, knew cartography, and several languages. In their meetings it seems clear that Silva Porto suffers from that cultural gap (for instance he was one of the few well known Portuguese explorers of the 19th century that wasn’t educated, while most of the others were army or navy officers). On other words, the Portuguese was a dinosaur, a kind of explorer in his path to extinction, while the Scot represented the new kind of African Explorer of the 19th century.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
4,948
#9
Anyway it is curious that Livingstone doesn’t ask for Portuguese since often (not so say always) Silva’s Porto party travelled with the Portuguese flag, as later Livingstone mentions with some concern when they are in the Barotze capital at 5 of August.
Probably because Livingston didn't speak any Portuguese? It seems less a series of questions designed to work out what Silva spoke, and more to find a common medium of communication.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,709
Portugal
#10
Probably because Livingston didn't speak any Portuguese? It seems less a series of questions designed to work out what Silva spoke, and more to find a common medium of communication.
Yes, as far as I know Livingstone didn’t spoke Portuguese in 1853 or learned during his life, I think that he spoke Latin and Ancient Greek, most probably French, I may have some doubts about German and Italian, maybe some member with more knowledge about him may came to our help.

Silva Porto only spoke Portuguese and local African languages.

Also, as far as I know their communication was always made with interpreters. And since Livingstone made many question to Silva Porto, later, my opinion was that the first questions had both intents, to establish communication and to know the language knowledge of the other. In all the meetings Livingstone always seemed to underline his cultural superiority, that it really existed, against the rusticity, the lack of culture and academic knowledge, and the knowledge made by experience in the field, of Silva Porto.

To summarise I cut the scene but the scene ended with Silva Porto writing his name in a piece of paper and delivering it to Livingstone. According to Silva Porto, it seems that was in that moment that Livingstone understood that his interlocutor was Portuguese and showed surprise.

Previously I mentioned the Portuguese flag, Silva Porto usually carried it, raised in his nigh encampments, and had it in his headquarters in Bié, in a city named Silva Porto in his honour, and renamed to Cuíto (Kuito), in 1975, after the independence of Angola. But I can’t guarantee that he had it with him in that encounter, or that it had been previously seen by Livingstone in the Portuguese encampment. Since it isn’t mentioned, just some days later, it is fair to assume that probably he hadn’t. But from their position the closest European colonies were Portuguese and British, so Livingstone surprise, believing in Silva’s Porto words, is itself surprising. Let me say that most of Silva’s Porto works are manuscripts still to be published, the man was prolific, he wrote about everything, with a certain bushman candor, but we can’t say that he was a good writer.

Anyway it was notorious that there was not sympathy between the two explorers, in all their encounters and dinners, but Silva’s Porto writings about Livingstone changed dramatically when he knew what Livingstone had published about him, in the mentioned book (Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa by David Livingstone), that he had been called half-caste, and that Livingstone claimed primacy among the Europeans to have arrived in certain areas, beginning to insult him deliberately: Silva Porto e Livingstone by António Francisco Ferreira da Silva Porto

For instance:

“O reverendo dr. David Livingstone mereceu, sem duvida, a corôa que seus concidadãos lhe votaram pelos serviços prestados n'estas partes de Africa; no entretanto, força é confessa-lo, ella foi desfeita pelo illustre viajante, visto have-la manchado com a peçonha da calumnia.” / “The Reverend dr. David Livingstone undoubtedly deserved the crown that his fellow citizens voted for his services in these parts of Africa; in the meantime, we must confess it, that crown was undone by the illustrious traveller since he stained it with venom and calumny.”

Still about Livingstone’s description of the Mambari party (the Portuguese expedition under Silva Porto), it seems that Silva Proto was not the only one white Portuguese in the expedition, since he later said about a fellow companion, Caetano José Ferreira: “Este homem, tão infamemente ultrajado (…) chama-se Caetano José Ferreira, natural do Barreiro, suburbia de Lisboa, e tem tanto de mulato, como o ilustre viajante de boa-fé nos seus escritos” / “This man, so infamously outraged... is called Caetano José Ferreira, a native of Barreiro, a suburb of Lisbon, and has much of mulatto as the illustrious traveller as of good faith in his writings”

In a short resume, Silva Porto took Livingstone’s words as a serious offence, not only the half caste terminology, but also the claims. Furthermore the racial insult must be understood at the eyes of the time period, even if still today, as we see frequently in this forum, that still could be considered an insult from some of our forum members.
 

Similar History Discussions