Carta de Angola (Esboço) 1935 / Ministério das Colónias, Junta das Missões Geográficas e de Investigações Colónias.

Lisbon: Comissão de Cartografia / Junta das Missões Geográficas, 1933 – 1936.

Colour lithograph on 4 un-joined sheets, with extensive contemporary manuscript additions in coloured crayon (Very Good, light even toning, light wear along old folds, a few minor repaired marginal tears), each sheet: 68 x 56 cm (27 x 22 inches); if joined would form a map approximately: 125 x 105 cm (49 x 41.5 inches).

A unique example of the authoritative ‘Headquarters’ map of Angola from an increasingly tense time when the Portuguese ‘Estado Novo’ regime sought to tighten its colonial grip over the country amidst the genesis of indigenous independence movements; the map published by the Junta das Missões Geográficas, Portugal’s colonial mapping agency, it was one of the last great works of Diniz Miranda, the agency’s longtime master cartographer – importantly the present example features extensive contemporary (and classified) manuscript additions marking the placement of Portuguese Army detachments throughout the country.

This is a unique example of the authoritative map of Angola made for use by Portuguese colonial officials and military officers during the early part of the Estado Novo regime (1926-74), published by the Comissão de Cartografia, (from 1936, renamed the Junta das Missões Geográficas e de Investigações), the official Portuguese colonial mapping agency.  During this period, Angola was subject to tight central control from Lisbon, which heavily funded infrastructure and economic development schemes that both benefitted the home country and the European settler communities, but which further impoverished the indigenous people, so fueling their independentist sentiments. 

To maintain control and smother dissent, Portugal deployed heavy military resources across Angola.  Importantly, the present example of the map features extensive manuscript additions, in coloured crayon, showing the distribution of various types of Portuguese army detachments across the country.  The nature of the manuscript additions indicates that the present example of the work was used as a ‘Headquarters Map’ by the Portuguese army high command. 

The map, printed on 4 un-joined sheets, serially issued between 1933 and 1936 by theComissão de Cartografia (latterly the Junta das Missões Geográficas), showcases the entire country to the ample scale of 1:500,000.  Based on recently updated topographical surveys, the map is highly accurate, and delineates the coastlines and major rivers, while defining areas of elevation.  All settlements of any note are labeled, often with their elevations in metres. 

The ‘Convenções’ (Signs) identifies the symbols used throughout to identify district seats; market towns; important villages; small villages, army outposts (forts); missions; trigonometrical surveying stations; wells; major roads (as bold red lines, with pointed lines representing those still under construction) and trails; railways; lighthouses; and political boundaries.  Notably the map is one of the final major works of Diniz Miranda (1858 – 1943), who had served for many decades as the chief engraver and cartographer of the Comissão de Cartografia.

Notably, the map charts the routes of the country’s three separate (not interconnected) railway systems, being the economic lifelines of the colony.  These are Luanda-Malange Railway, which ran into the interior from the province’s capital; the Benguela Railway, which ran from the central coast across the country to the border with the Belgian Congo; and the Moçâmedes Railway, which ran into the interior from the south coast.

Critically, the present edition of map is unique, due to its extensive contemporary manuscript additions, in coloured crayon, that show the disbursement of Portuguese Army (Exército Português) forces across Angola.  In many places, often district capitals, the map labels the presence of specific army units, each with their identification number and the acronyms for their types, being “C.I.C.” = Centro de Instrução de Comandos (Regional Command Bases); “C.I.E.” = Centro de Informações do Exército (Army Information Centres); and “B.A.L.” = Artillery Units.  Additionally, the lines in green crayon denote the boundaries of military districts.  This specialized information would have been highly classified and indicates that the map was used as a strategic aid by the Portuguese Army High Command, either in Luanda or Lisbon.  As such, it is a unique artifact of a tense and consequential period in Angola’s colonial history.

While there are quite a few examples of the map held by libraries, often institutions that had contemporary Comissão de Cartografia subscriptions, examples only very seldom appear on the market.  Of course, the present offering is unique.

The Estado Novo Regime in Angola: From Repressive Overreach to Revolution

The present map appeared during a critical time in the history of Angola.  Portugal and its overseas empire were ruled by the Estado Novo regime (1926-74), led by the dictator António de Oliveira Salazar (1889 – 1970).  Salazar, an economics professor, presided over a conservative autocracy with a lamentable human rights record (especially in the African colonies), but he was an extremely disciplined and shrewd and manager of money and allocator of resources, successfully reviving Portugal’s economy and making the colonies far more commercially productive. 

To save money (the Portuguese Empire was recovering from a severe financial crisis), Salazar cut social spending in Angola (much the detriment of the Black residents) and slashed funds for European immigration to the colony (which was expensive on the front end).  However, he dramatically increased spending on infrastructure and economic development schemes and the armed forces in Angola, with the objective of making it far more profitable (for the home country), while maintaining tight control over the increasingly restive populous.

In 1930, the Estado Novo regime passed the Colonial Act, which reduced the authority and autonomy of Angola’s governor and regional colonial officials, concentrating power in Lisbon.  Many roads and ports were dramatically improved, while the Benguela Railway was inaugurated for service in 1931, opening the heart of Angola to global markets and acting as key conduit for the Belgian Congo’s immense natural resource wealth to reach the sea (while padding Portugal’s coffers).  In 1932, Salazar invited the Oppenheimer Trust of South Africa to make a success of Angola’s diamond industry.  The annual production of coffee soared to over 11,839 tons in 1930, breaking the record set during the 1890s coffee boom.  In 1934, the Estado Novo regime imposed high tariffs upon Angola’s trade with foreign countries, to keep the colony dependent upon Portugal.

Yet, Salazar’s reforms ultimately proved politically disastrous, as while government revenues and certain white business owners benefitted greatly, most Black Angolans saw their incomes collapse due to the Great Depression.  This was largely responsible for many not being able to pay the colony’s annual ‘head tax’, equivalent to U.S. $3.80, and so they were forced into corvee labour or to pursue various desperate measures.

Angolans were inspired by various international liberation movements which, in some cases, were radical in nature.  In 1928, socialist-minded Angolan activists attended the Sixth Comintern Congress in Moscow, prefiguring the formation of the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola – Partido do Trabalho (MPLA), the Communist organization that would play a leading role in Angola’s eventual liberation.

As Angola became increasingly restive, Salazar deployed substantial military resources to the colony, ensuring that it was geographically well distributed, such that any flickering of unrest could be rapidly and brutally crushed, and this is where the present map comes into play.

The Estado Novo regime continued to implement its conservative, mercantilist policies, but in 1940 made a policy shift with regards to white settlement in Angola.  Figuring that white settlers would be loyal anchors of the colonial establishment, Salazar encouraged and heavily subsidized Portuguese migration to the colony.  The ethnic European population in Angola grew from 44,000 in 1940 to 170,00 in 1961, which only exacerbated racial tensions.

The Angolans’ resentment of the Portuguese colonial regime eventually exploded into the Guerra do Ultramar, known in English the Colonial War (1961-75), a brutal conflict that saw Portugal simultaneously battle rebellions in Angola, Mozambique and Guiné (Guinea-Bissau).  The Angolan theatre featured various domestic factions and the interference of global powers, in what was a proxy fight as part of the Cold War.  Portugal was backed by the CIA and South Africa, while the Angolan revolutionaries were aided by Cuba and the Soviet Union.  While Angola eventually gained its freedom in 1975 (Portugal withdrew due to pressures within its metropolitan), it was soon plunged into a Civil War (1975-2002).  It is only recently that Angola had attained some level of stability and prosperity (in good deal to its burgeoning the oil economy), even if the power and wealth if not well distributed.

References: Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal: C.C. 487//1-4 A; Library of Congress: G8640 1935 .P6; OCLC: 433409275, 731911683, 34107138.

850 EUR