Mozambique (Moçambique) had been considered Portuguese territory since Vasco da Gama first arrived along its shores in 1498, with trading outposts being founded shortly thereafter. Over the coming generations, Mozambique became so deeply weaved into the global Lusitanian empire, that many Portuguese considered it to be an inalienable part of Portugal, as opposed to far-flung colony. Until deep into the 19th century the Portuguese enslaved the indigenous peoples, and even after that, ran a harsh regime that cared little for public welfare.
During the mid-20th Century, Mozambique was swept up in the pan-African wave of independentist sentiment. The average Mozambican lived in poverty while most of the country’s wealth was siphoned off by foreigners, with their country governed by the white appointees of the Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.
In due course, an armed rebel movement, FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique), mounted the Mozambican War of Independence (1964-74), a brutal decade-long conflict. Employing guerrilla tactics, FRELIMO eventually wore down the Portuguese Army, resulting in ceasefire in 1974, around when the present map was made.
Mozambique gained its full independence in 1975. Sadly, its moment of triumph was to be short lived, as the county was plunged into the horrnesouds Mozambican Civil War (1977–1992). It was only in 1993, after almost 30 years of conflict that Mozambique came to enjoy some level of stability under democratic government.4
The Map in Focus
The present map was made on the orders of the Portuguese Colonial Ministry right near the end of the Mozambican War of Independence, just as Portugal was compelled to give up its 400-year-long hold overt the country. All major topographic features are marked, with each province coloured in its own bright hue. The ‘Legenda’, in the lower right, details the symbols used to denote various levels of Portuguese administrative centres, political boundaries, railways and roads of various levels (both in use and under construction), as well as certain features of the landscape.
Interestingly, the present example of the map features contemporary manuscript additions in German, referring to two coal mining areas, revealing that even during such a turbulent period, international investors were still trying to profit from Mozambique great natural resources bounty. Also, the naming of the capital city, Lourenço Marques, is shown crossed out and preplaced in manuscript with “Mabuto” (Maputo), which became the official name for the city in 1976.
The map is rare, outside of Portugal we can trace only 3 institutional examples, held by the Library of Congress, Stanford University, and the University of California-Santa Barbara.
References: Library of Congress: G8450 1974 .R4; OCLC: 5834598.