Between Benevolence and Inevitability: The ‘Civilising Mission’ of Portuguese Colonialism

  • Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo
Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)


During the anti-slavery conference that took place in Brussels between 18 November 1889 and 2 July 1890, the Portuguese representatives (Henrique Macedo, Portuguese ambassador in Brussels and former minister of the navy and overseas; Augusto Castilho, a naval officer who had been governor of Mozambique; Brito Capelo, an explorer and officer in the Portuguese Navy; and Batalha Reis, consul in Newcastle) were ‘armed with memoirs, documents and geographical charts’ with which they would demonstrate Portugal’s secular ‘administrative, scientific and humanitarian activity’ in Africa.1 The conference took place under the sign of the scramble for Africa and of the legacy of the Berlin Conference of 1884, and in particular under the 6th article of the General Act of February 1885.2 This article established and internationally consecrated the obligations upon all the powers exercising sovereign rights or influence over colonial territories to bring home ‘the blessings of civilization’ and to ensure the ‘protection of the native populations’ and ‘the improvement of the conditions of their moral and material well-being’, reaffirming, in general, the aims to ‘abolish slavery, and especially the slave trade’ in these territories. The generic goal, as Marcelo Caetano wrote many years later, was to make the natives ‘understand and appreciate the advantages of civilisation’; how-ever, as we shall see, it meant much more than this.3


African Continent Native Labour Slave Trade Colonial Power Colonial Administration 
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  1. 1.
    Marcelo Caetano, Portugal e a Internacionalização dos Problemas Africanos (Lisboa: Edições Ática, 1965), 145. For the protocols and the conference’s closing declaration, see Conférence Internationale de Bruxelles ( Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1891 ).Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Social SciencesUniversity of LisbonPortugal

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