n Historia - Swashbuckling with a conscience
Bringers of War: The Portuguese in Africa during the Age of Gunpowder and Sail from the Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Century, John Laband : book review

Volume 59, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0018-229X



The pull of riches, the push of religion: a recipe for centuries of violence and sacrifice in the name of duty, in the hope of glory. Here the story of Portugal in Africa is told as a military history. There are no arguments, no theories. In that sense the book is an easy read, as well as a vivid and richly detailed narrative. A caution, as one absorbs the horrors: it is well to remember that the Portuguese, styled as ":bringers of war", were not alone in that regard. The book's six chapters pertain to regions. By consolidating accounts of Portuguese exploration and conquest in north, west and east Africa, the author provides chronologies that are readily grasped. The several timelines are drawn together in a master chronology of the near-five century period covered, namely, 1385 1856. Southern Africa hardly figures in this history. The death of Francisco de Almeida at the hands of Khoikhoi in Table Bay merits only a footnote (p 68).

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