While Portugal had a settled, fixed presence in Angola and Mozambique since the 16th Century, until the mid-19th century, it only controlled narrow strips of territory along the coasts. While from the 1840s onwards, it made strong efforts to explore the interior and establish outposts in the near inland areas of both colonies. However, the vast majority of the interior areas were still controlled by the indigenous nations, who were bound to Portugal only by loose tributary agreements. Portugal was a small and cash-strapped nation, such that its efforts to develop Angola and Mozambique were Herculean in relative terms. However, they were not sufficient to prevent larger and better-funded European rivals from coveting Portuguese territories.
While the Berlin Conference (1884-5) awarded Portugal clear title to coastal Angola and Mozambique, the limits of these colonies in the interior remained ill-defined.
Optimistically, the Comissão de Cartografia, the official Portuguese colonial mapping agency, published the Carta das Possessòes Portuguezas da Africa Meridional (Paris: Erhard Frères, 1886), popularly known as the ‘Mapa cor-de-rosa’ (Rose-Coloured Map), or the ‘Pink Map’ in English, which became one of the most famous and controversial maps of any part of Africa ever created. Please see a link:
Here, Portugal’s domains are shown to extend in an uninterrupted form from Angola to Mozambique, taking in most of Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi (otherwise claimed by Britain), all coloured in pink. The map, with Portugal’s bold clams, served as a ‘red flag’ to British imperial diehards, who pressured their government to threaten Portugal to abandon its ambitions and to cede the heart of Southern Africa to Britain.
Britain, while Portugal’s oldest ally and historical protector and liberator, saw its ruling classes became obsessed with acquiring African gold and diamonds, of which they believed large deposits existed in the heart of Southern Africa. They caused Britain to behave in scandalously craven and cohesive manner towards Portugal, such that Westminster issued the ‘Ultimatum’ of January 11, 1890, whereby Britain demanded possession of all the deep interior of Southern Africa (today’s Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi), plus significant parts of what Portugal considered to be ‘core’ Angola and Mozambique. This would go a long way towards realizing Cecil Rhodes’s dream of the British Empire in Africa extending uninterrupted from the ‘Cape to Cairo’. Under extreme duress, the weak Portuguese royalist government signed the (initially secret) Treaty of London of August 20, 1890, which essentially agreed to the British demands.
As soon as news of the treaty broke in Portugal, on August 30, 1890, it created a national furore of such an extreme intensity that nobody could have predicted. Almost everyone considered the treaty to be a national disgrace and were angry that their government seemed to meekly back down, almost totally accepting the British ‘Ultimatum’ without even trying to gain any concessions. It reinforced the prevailing view in many quarters that the monarchist regime was corrupt, unresponsive, and atrophied, and should be replaced with a popular republic.
Seemingly oblivious to the public discontent, the Comissão ce Cartografia published a map depicting the treaty settlement, as a sequel to the ‘Mapa cor-de-rosa’, the Carta das possessões portuguezas da Africa meridional: segundo o projecto de tratado de 20 de Agosto de 1890 (Paris: Erhard Frères, 1890). Perhaps not surprisingly, not many copies of this map were printed, as it showcased the crown’s disgrace, and, as such, it was (unintentionally) a powerful piece of government-sponsored anti-government propaganda!
Nowhere was the rage over the August 20 Treaty more intense that in Porto. The bustling port city was long a hotbed of liberal and republican sentiment, whole its economy depended heavily upon trade with Angola and Mozambique. Undoubtably, while ‘Tripeiros’ (the popular nickname for natives of Porto, due the city’s signature dish of tripe) were sincerely motivated by rage over the Africa question, the matter also served as a funnel for the broader discontent they felt towards the crown.
Enter the Present Map…
The leading daily O Comércio do Porto was founded in 1854 to serve the “need felt in the square of Porto for a newspaper of commerce, agriculture and industry, dealing with economic, historical and instructive matters” (the paper operated until 2005, whereupon it was the second oldest newspaper in Portugal). Its editors shared Tripeiros’ outrage over the August 20 Treaty and sought to capitalize upon it.
O Comércio commissioned the photographer and publisher Emilio Biel (1838 – 1915) to produce a map of Sothern Africa showing the August 20 Treaty borders. Biel was born in Germany but immigrated to Portugal at the age of 19, whereupon he soon became one of Portugal’s most famous photographers and innovators of photographic technology. His images are today highly prized records of 19th century Iberia, being the subject of many exhibitions and books. Biel also worked as a printer, generally issuing books and views, with the present work representing a rare foray into cartography.
The map is, in its scope and content (but not in its style), is predicated upon the Comissão de Cartografia’s Carta das possessões portuguezas da Africa meridional: segundo o projecto de tratado de 20 de Agosto de 1890. However, unlike the Comissão’s map, which was printed in Paris and was far too expensive for the great majority of Tripeiros to purchase (not to mention the fact that very few copies were ever available), Biel’s map was made to be cheaply sold at newsstands to the masses. In this respect, it ‘democratized’ cartography, and, in many cases, it was the only way that the average people of Porto could geographically understand the full ‘disgrace’ of the August 20 Treaty.
The map embraces the band of Southern Africa between 2° to 25° South, from Lake Victoria and the Lower Congo, in the north, down past Pretoria and Lourenço Marques, in the south. All significant rivers are delineated, all major European towns are noted, while the territories of the indigenous nations and tribal areas are labelled, over which are superimposed the European intercolonial boundaries, as conceived by the August 20 Treaty.
The ‘Legenda’, in the upper right corner, explains the colour-coding used to identify the territories of the various European powers, including Portuguese territory = Blue; British territory = Pink; German territory = Yellow; the territories of the Congo Free State and the South African Republic (Transvaal) = Green; while the bold black diagonally hachured lines = Limits of the Territories to where the indigenous tribes had recognized the sovereignty of Portugal (i.e. Portugal’s tributary zone); while Railways Under Construction = tracked lines and Completed Railways = arrowed lines.
Critically, the map shows British territory reaching from the direction of the Cape Colony up to the bottom of Lake Tanganyika, separating Angola from Mozambique by 800 km. While Angola’s eastern limits, as shown here, were not so problematic compared to Portuguese ambitions, even reaching beyond the black line of Portugal’s tributary zone, the Anglo-Mozambican boundaries were seen to be outrageously offensive. In central Mozambique, the boundary was set hundreds of kms east of the black tributary line, hitherto seen by Portugal as the natural western frontier of Mozambique. Critically, the British gave themselves the northern bank of the Zambesi River in the Tete region, which was very rich in natural resources (notably coal), and which had been long well-explored by the Portuguese, yet had been seldom visited by Britons, in addition to the Shire Highlands (southern Malawi). Portuguese public opinion was correct in believing that the British had absolutely no legitimate claim to the northern bank of the Zambezi in Tete, and that there was no excuse for the Portuguese crown to have surrendered it. Moreover, the borders in many places left Mozambique with an artificially narrow and indefensible form, relegating the colony to being something of a ‘rump’.
Undoubtably, the present map would have outraged the many Tripeiros who would have laid eyes upon it, and examples would have been hung on that walls of offices, homes, and the ‘safe houses’ of revolutionary activists, serving as a ‘call to arms’ (both figuratively and literally).
As it tined out, the furore over the August 20 Treaty was so intense that it caused the Portuguese parliamentary government to fall, placing so much pressure on the king that Portugal urgently went back to the British to seek a better treaty. Britain, which did not wish to see the regime of its supposed ally collapse, agreed to moderate their demands, opening secret negotiations.
Even as the days turned into months, the anger in Porto did not dissipate, rather it seemed only to intensify. On January 31, 1891, an influential group of local grandees, backed by a number of soldiers, mounted a republican coup d’état again against the crown. They took control of the main post & telegraph office and City Hall, which they made into their headquarters.
However, the municipal guard remained loyal to the king, while hundreds of troops in the service of the crown flooded into Porto from the south. After a series of skirmishes on the streets and aboard boats in harbour, the revolt was suppressed, with many of the rebel leaders feeling abroad. However, Porto and the king were never reconciled, and the city was ardently engaged in the successful republican effort to overturn the monarchy in 1910.
Returning to the diplomatic sphere, the negotiations resulted in the the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1891 (June 11), which included an improved land settlement for Portugal in Mozambique, although the overall result remained that Britain was to gain title to ‘Rhodesia’, forever killing the notion of linking Angola with Mozambique in all-Portuguese band running across Southern Africa. Specifically, the treaty returned the valuable northern bank of the Zambesi River east of Zombo to Portugal, while Britain retained Manicaland (in today’s Zimbabwe) and the Shire Highlands. While the settlement fell well short of Portugal’s original ambitions, it at least guaranteed both Mozambique and Angola ample inland territory, while presumably eliminating threat of future British aggression.
This settlement was depicted on a rare map, continuing the Comissão de Cartografia’s map sequence, the Carta das Possessões Portuguezas da Africa Meridional Segundo as convenções celebradas em 1891. / 2ª Edição (Paris: Erhard Frères, 1891).
Please see Afriterra’s example of this map:
While the boundaries ordained by the 1891 treaty would need to be surveyed, and an amendment to the line running through the Manica Plateau needed to be settled by arbitration in 1897, the boundaries between the British and Portuguese territories in the regions would essentially endure.
As Britain had largely gotten what it wanted, it returned to being Portugal’s steadfast ally and protector, and the two nations fought together during World War I to fend off (albeit with great difficulty) the German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck’s amazingly vigorous invasion of British East Africa, Mozambique, and Rhodesia.
Portugal would continue to rule Angola and Mozambique until 1975.
A Note on Rarity
The map is an exceedingly rare ephemeral work. While supposedly it was issued in a sizeable print run, as a large, fragile work made for masses, to be handed around and pinned up on walls, it would have had a very low survival rate.
We can trace only 2 institutional examples, held by the Biblioteca Nactional de Portugal and the Biblioteca Pública de Évora, while we are not aware of any sales records.
The present example of the map appears to be an early issue, or even a proof state, as unlike the other known examples, it does not feature Biel’s imprint in the lower left margin.
References: Biblioteca Nactional de Portugal: C.C. 92 A.; Biblioteca Pública de Évora: Arm 3 e 4 Est 3 Hem II, 19 – DVD Mapas – 21.