In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Mozambique

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Economy
  • Religion
  • Language
  • Literature

African Studies Mozambique
Elizabeth MacGonagle
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0035


The people of Mozambique (also Moçambique in Portuguese) have displayed a heartening resilience amidst a long history of suffering marked by an exploitative system of colonial rule and several decades of warfare. Colonialism under the Portuguese was especially brutal and lasted until 1975 when a liberation struggle by Frelimo (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique/Front for the Liberation of Mozambique) led to independence soon after a 1974 coup in Portugal. The Mozambican government’s initial hopes for peaceful progress as a one-party state led by Frelimo were crushed when the opposition movement Renamo (Resistênica Nacional Moçambicana/Mozambican National Resistance), funded by white regimes in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa, fought a persistent campaign of destabilization that undermined many of the government’s development gains. Sixteen years of post-independence warfare (1977–1992) devastated the country of almost 15 million people (1992 estimate), creating 5 million refugees and causing 1 million deaths. Land mines used by both sides killed and maimed many civilians. At times Renamo controlled large parts of the countryside through terror, coercion, and the recruitment of child soldiers. Some segments of the population, alienated from Frelimo’s Marxist-Leninist policies, willingly supported Renamo. In 1990, the government shifted from a centrally planned economy to a free-market system and adopted a new constitution that paved the way for a 1992 peace agreement and the creation of a multi-party democracy. Frelimo secured a majority in the first democratic elections in 1994 and the party’s leaders continued to oversee two decades of recovery, stability and growth. Although Frelimo maintained its hold on executive power (in subsequent presidential elections in 1999, 2004, and 2009), Renamo gained a sizable minority of seats in the Assembly of the Republic, Mozambique’s legislative body, and a few smaller political parties are involved in the political process. Recent rapid economic growth has not addressed pressing inequality, for much of the current population of over 23 million (2012 estimate) remains desperately poor. A major challenge for the future is to alleviate poverty and ensure that the people, o povo, benefit from the country’s largely untapped natural resources in the midst of growing international interest and investments. Three huge projects include the Mozal aluminum smelter, the coal fields in Tete, and the Pande natural gas fields. Soon after independence, scholars produced valuable work in many disciplines that countered racist colonial perceptions about Mozambique. Research blossomed further during the first two decades of peace and reconstruction in postwar Mozambique. Collectively, this impressive body of scholarship since independence, combined with relevant studies from the colonial period, provides the investigator with insight into Mozambique’s rich history and complex contemporary realities. Work in English and Portuguese is included in this article, for the English scholarship on its own is not representative. It is hard to understand Mozambique fully without a working knowledge of Portuguese.

General Overviews

The two valuable volumes by Departamento de História (Departamento de História 2000a and Departamento de História 2000b) are the result of much scholarly collaboration among Mozambican historians. This revised collection of work was first published in various forms in the 1980s and early 1990s when Mozambicans produced their own version of the precolonial and colonial past soon after gaining independence. Newitt 1995 provides the most comprehensive summary of Mozambique’s history written in English. Isaacman and Isaacman 1983 offers detailed analysis of the 20th century up to 1982. Pélissier 2000 focuses on resistance to Portuguese colonial rule while Sheldon 2002 examines Mozambican women’s history. The edited, online forum of H-Luso-Africa provides updates on the direction of scholarly work related to Mozambique by commissioning book reviews, listing recent publications on Lusophone Africa, announcing conferences, and providing other news. Searchable discussion threads provide an overview of current issues under debate in the field of Lusophone studies.

  • Departamento de História, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) História de Moçambique. 2d ed. Vol. 1. Maputo, Mozambique: Livraria Universitária, 2000a.

    Written by an accomplished group of scholars at UEM under the direction of Carlos Serra. The first section examines societies and trading relations from the earliest times (3rd century CE) to the late 19th century. The second part discusses European imperial activities between 1886 and 1930 and traces the development of Mozambique as a Portuguese colony. Written in Portuguese for an undergraduate audience.

  • Departamento de História, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) História de Moçambique. 2d ed. Vol. 2. Maputo, Mozambique: Livraria Universitária, 2000b.

    A team effort from historians of Mozambique, coordinated by David Hedges, that studies the colony of Mozambique from 1930 to 1961. An excellent overview of Portuguese colonial policies such as forced labor and the accompanying violence associated with the time period. Includes a detailed discussion of African resistance to colonial rule as the society and economy of Mozambique changed in the mid-20th century. Written in Portuguese for an undergraduate audience.

  • H-Luso-Africa.

    This monitored discussion network brings scholars with an interest in Mozambique and other Lusophone countries in Africa together online. Informative book reviews are published and archived on the site. Other daily postings range from announcements of conferences to queries about various scholarly topics. Links to Lusophone journals appear on the home page. Part of the H-Net interdisciplinary organization of scholars and teachers worldwide.

  • Isaacman, Allen, and Barbara Isaacman. Mozambique: From Colonialism to Revolution, 1900–1982. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1983.

    Short, readable introduction to Mozambique’s history based on the authors’ extensive research. Discusses the colonial era and early period of independence only.

  • Newitt, Malyn. A History of Mozambique. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

    A major work that covers five hundred years of history in the region that came to be the Portuguese colony of Mozambique. Examines social, political, and economic developments among Africans, Europeans, and Arabs by tracing themes of political control and disintegration over time. The final chapter discusses the first two decades of Mozambique’s independence since 1975.

  • Pélissier, René. História de Moçambique: Formação e Oposição, 1854–1918. 3d ed. Lisbon, Portugal: Editorial Estampa, 2000.

    Describes the conflicts surrounding Portuguese attempts to control all of Mozambique as a formal colony in the 19th and early 20th century after a long presence in the region for centuries. Includes detailed attention to African resistance efforts. First published in French as Naissance du Mozambique: Résistance et Révoltes Anticoloniales (1854–1918). Orgeval, France: Pélissier, 1984.

  • Sheldon, Kathleen E. Pounders of Grain: A History of Women, Work, and Politics in Mozambique. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002.

    Draws on rich, detailed research on women and work in Mozambican history to survey women’s experiences from the mid-19th century to the end of the 20th century.

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