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Natalie McCallum Destabilization of the Kongo Kingdom: The Social and Political Ramifications of theTrans-Atlantic Slave TradePrior to the arrival of the Portuguese in 1484, the Kingdom of Kongo was considered a “substantial state” that was “superimposed on many tiny principalities”.1It was with the arrival of Diogo Cão in 1484 that Christianity was introduced to the Kingdom. Initially, with the Portuguese presence, the Kongo monarchy was strengthened through the foreign goods that were introduced and exchanged. However, succession disputes, political chaos, and “continuing war” catapulted the kingdom into severe destabilization due to violence and “the growing human hemorrhage of the slave trade”.2The increase of local warfare allowed the enslavement of vast amounts of people; this therefore engendered social and material conflicts, and altered the sociocultural landscapeof the Kongo. By eroding the populace, the slave trade progressively distorted the patterns of social life and the demographics of the kingdom. Additionally, the cycle of war and slavery gave rise to Dona Beatriz, who claimed to be possessed by Saint Anthony and created the Antonian Movement, which attempted to “end the wars that fed this trade in humans by attacking the kindoki, the relentless greed that fueled it”.3The Trans- Atlantic Slave trade and its codependency on the civil wars that plagued the Kongo gave way to social and material conflicts. These conflicts pitted Catholicism 1 Isichei, Elizabeth Allo. A History of African Societies to 1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 392. 2 Thornton, John K. The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684-1706. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 203. 3 Ibid. 203. 1
against the Antonian movement, and entrenched the kingdom in trade based political schemes that altered both the demographics and the materialistic worth of the African slave. During the seventeenth century, when political dissension grew and the Kingdom of Kongo began to factionalize into territories ruled by warlords of old Kongo nobility, a sequence of civil wars and border raids began. It was this violence which “fed the initial Portuguese purchases of slaves in western central Africa”; the resulting demographic “transformations, viewed over the three centuries of the Angolan slave trade, resembled a moving frontier zone of slaving violence”.4Slaves could be generated through war