In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section South Atlantic Creole Archipelagos

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Reference Works and Encyclopedias
  • Journals
  • Geography, Environment, and Ecology
  • Economy
  • Migration
  • Society and Culture
  • Women and Gender
  • Languages
  • Literature
  • Music
  • Performance

Atlantic History South Atlantic Creole Archipelagos
Gerhard Seibert
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0344


In 2020 Cabo Verde (1557 sq. miles) and São Tomé and Príncipe (621 sq. miles) had a resident population of 556,857 and 210,240 respectively. Both archipelagos were uninhabited when they were settled by Portuguese colonists and African slaves in the second half of the fifteenth century. The coexistence of Europeans and Africans resulted in the emergence of Creole societies. Due to their differences in geographic position and climate, they developed unequally in economic terms. Santiago, the first of the Cabo Verde Islands to be settled, became a commercial hub for the slave trade from the Upper Guinea coast. São Tomé was also engaged in the slave trade, but in the sixteenth century established the first tropical plantation economy based on sugar and slave labor. In the seventeenth century, both archipelagos were affected by economic and demographic decline. Economic recovery did not occur before the mid-nineteenth century. The British established a coal supply station for transatlantic steam shipping in São Vicente, while, enabled by the introduction of coffee and cocoa, the Portuguese reestablished the plantation economy in São Tomé and Príncipe. After the abolition of slavery in 1875 the workforce was composed of contract workers from Angola, Cabo Verde, and Mozambique. As a result, São Tomé and Príncipe became marked by immigration for almost a century. In contrast, pushed by famines and misery, a massive emigration from Cabo Verde began in the nineteenth century, a feature that has marked the archipelago’s society and identity until the early twenty-first century. The first anticolonial groups in exile appeared in the late 1950s. An armed liberation struggle in the islands was not possible; however, a group of Cabo Verdeans participated in the armed struggle in Portuguese Guinea. Most prominent among them was Amílcar Cabral (b. 1924–d. 1973). After independence in 1975 the two countries became socialist one-party regimes. In 1990 both archipelagos introduced multiparty democracies with semipresidential regimes. Creole communities also developed in the Gulf of Guinea islands of Bioko (779 square miles) and Annobón (6.5 sq. miles), which belonged to Portugal until 1778 when they became part of Spanish Guinea which subsequently, in 1968, gained independence as Equatorial Guinea. In the sixteenth century the uninhabited island of Annobón was settled by the Portuguese with African slaves. As a result, the island’s early-21st-century 5,300 inhabitants speak a Portuguese-based Creole, Fá d’Ambó. Bioko (Fernando Po), was the only Gulf of Guinea Island with a native population, the Bubi, and therefore the Portuguese never colonized this island. From 1827–1843 the British navy maintained an antislaving station called Port Clarence (modern Malabo) in Fernando Po. The British recruited workers from Freetown in Sierra Leone, which was the beginning of the development of the Fernandinos, a local Creole community that speaks an English-based Creole language known as Pichi, which is closely related to Krio in Sierra Leone. Currently, there are still about thirty Fernandino families, comprising some 350 people; however, Pichi is spoken by an estimated 150,000 people, since it also became Bioko’s lingua franca spoken by the Bubi majority.

General Overviews

The general works Lesourd 1995, Andrade 1996, and Lobban 1998 are historical overviews on Cabo Verde, including its early colonization in the fifteenth century, modern colonialism, the independence movement led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde (PAIGC), and the early postcolonial period. The two English-language publications, Hodges and Newitt 1988 and Seibert 2006, provide useful overviews on the colonial and postcolonial history of São Tomé and Príncipe. The latter is the most updated and detailed overview on the two-island state with a focus on developments in the postcolonial period until 2005. Although published some sixty years ago, Tenreiro 1961 is still considered a standard work on São Tomé Island.

  • Andrade, Elisa Silva. Les iles du Cap-Vert de la “découvert” à l’independence nationale (1460–1975). Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996.

    A general history of Cabo Verde, from a Marxist perspective, from the settlement of the hitherto unpopulated archipelago in 1460 until independence in 1975. The various chapters deal with the formation of local society, the economy of slavery, the class system, the decline of slavery, colonial capitalism, the stalemate of colonialism, and the prospects of development after independence. Portuguese edition: As ilhas de Cabo Verde da “descoberta” à Independência Nacional (1460–1975). Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996.

  • Arquivo Histórico Nacional. Descoberta das ilhas de Cabo Verde: Découverte des îles du Cap-Vert. Paris: AHN, 1998.

    Bilingual volume with chapters by local authors on the archipelago’s history, society, migration, Creole language, oral tradition, beliefs and religion, music, literature, and visual arts.

  • Hernandez, Leila Leite. Os filhos da terra do sol: A formação do Estado-nação em Cabo Verde. São Paulo, Brazil: Selo Negro Edições, 2002.

    Analyzes the sociohistorical singularities of Cabo Verde’s society, whose roots go back to the second half of the fifteenth century. The author stresses the nature and the meaning of socialization and oppression typical of the Portuguese colonial system in this archipelago. Under this perspective, she addresses the formation and the downfall of slave society, highlighting the processes of miscegenation, formal education, and emigration.

  • Hodges, Tony, and Malyn Newitt. São Tomé and Príncipe: From Plantation Colony to Microstate. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988.

    Mainly based on Portuguese secondary sources, this book provides a detailed overview of the islands’ early and modern colonial history, society, and postindependence politics under the socialist one-party regime until the late 1980s, as well as a discussion on the problems of the plantation economy and cocoa monoculture in the postcolonial period.

  • Lesourd, Michel. État et société aux îles du Cap-Vert: Alternatives pour un petit état insulaire. Paris: Karthala, 1995.

    Cabo Verde’s history, with a focus on natural conditions — insularity, periodic droughts, migration, and dependence on foreign aid—that have challenged the country since independence during different political regimes. The author also compares Cabo Verde’s development with that of other, similar small island nations.

  • Lobban, Richard A. Cape Verde: Crioulo Colony to Independent Nation. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998.

    A concise history of Cabo Verde from the islands’ first settlement and colonization in the fifteenth century until the beginning of the multiparty democracy in the early 1990s. Includes chapters on the colonial period, society and culture, local politics, and socioeconomic development.

  • Morais, João Sousa, and Joana Bastos Malheiro. São Tomé e Príncipe—as cidades: Património arquitetónico. São Tomé e Príncipe – The Cities. Architectural Heritage. Casal de Cambra, Portugal: Caleidoscópio, 2013.

    Bilingual book on the urban development and architectural heritage of São Tomé city and the small town of Santo António in Príncipe Island, from their foundations in 1493 and 1500 respectively until the 1970s. The volume is illustrated with many photos and old and new maps.

  • Nascimento, Augusto. Histórias da ilha do Príncipe. Oeiras, Portugal: Município de Oeiras, 2010.

    This book illustrated with documents, maps, and photos covers the entire history of Príncipe Island from its discovery in the 1470s until 2006.

  • Seibert, Gerhard. Comrades, Clients and Cousins: Colonialism, Socialism and Democratization in São Tomé and Príncipe. 2d ed. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789047408437

    Covers the islands’ entire history since their settlement in the late fifteenth century with a focus on politics and economy in the postcolonial period. Provides a detailed analysis of the democratic transition in 1990 and political and socioeconomic developments until 2005. The Portuguese translation of the first edition is Camaradas, clientes e compadres: Colonialismo, socialismo e democratização em São Tomé e Príncipe (Lisbon, Portugal: Vega, 2001).

  • Tenreiro, Francisco. A ilha de São Tomé. Lisbon, Portugal: Junta de Investigações do Ultramar, 1961.

    Monograph about São Tomé by the Luso-Sãotomean geographer Francisco Tenreiro, influenced by the ideology of lusotropicalism of the 1950s. Nevertheless, as of the early twenty-first century this book is still considered required reading for anybody who works on São Tomé.

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