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Contested enslavement: The Portuguese in Angola and the problem of debt, c. 1600-1800

Spicksley, Judith



The Portuguese were keen slave traders on the west central coast of Africa in the early modern period, but governors in Angola appear to have been increasingly unhappy about certain aspects of enslavement in relation to debt, and in particular that of children. Slavery for debt was uncommon in early modern Europe, where three arguments, drawn from Roman law, were usually cited by way of justification: birth; war; and self-sale. Cavazzi, an Italian Capuchin missionary travelling around Angola between 1654 and 1665, suggested several similarities between the legal justifications for slavery in Africa and Europe, but also pointed up a major difference: while in Angola in the early modern period enslavement could result from a number of instances of default, in Portugal at the same time-and in Europe more widely-debtors tended to find themselves imprisoned if they defaulted on a payment, rather than enslaved. This paper will consider the nature of debt enslavement in Angola in the early modern period, and how it impacted on the transatlantic slave trade.


Spicksley, J. (2015). Contested enslavement: The Portuguese in Angola and the problem of debt, c. 1600-1800. Itinerario, 39(2), 247-275.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date May 26, 2015
Online Publication Date Sep 11, 2015
Publication Date 2015-08
Deposit Date Jun 11, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jun 11, 2019
Journal Itinerario
Print ISSN 0165-1153
Electronic ISSN 2041-2827
Publisher Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 39
Issue 2
Pages 247-275
Keywords Africa ; Slave trade; Portuguese empire; Debt; Legal history
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the accepted manuscript of an article published in Itinerario, 2015. The version of record is available at the DOI link in this record.


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