This book begins in 1820 with the Portuguese attempt to create a third, African, empire after the virtual loss of Asia and America. In the nineteenth century the most valuable resource extracted from Angola was agricultural labour, first as privately owned slaves and later as conscript workers. The colony was managed by a few marine officers, by several hundred white political convicts, and by a couple of thousand black Angolans who had adopted Portuguese language and culture. The hub was the harbour city of Luanda which grew in the twentieth century to be a dynamic metropolis of several million people. The export of labour was gradually replaced when an agrarian revolution enabled white Portuguese immigrants to drive black Angolan labourers to produce sugar-cane, cotton, maize and above all coffee. During the twentieth century this wealth was supplemented by Congo copper, by gem-quality diamonds, and by off-shore oil. Although much of the countryside retained its dollar-a-day peasant economy, new wealth generated conflict which pitted white against black, north against south, coast against highland, American allies against Russian allies.The generation of warfare finally ended in 2002 when national reconstruction could begin on Portuguese colonial foundations.
David Birmingham's first book, on the Portuguese conquest of Angola, was published by Oxford University Press in 1965. Since then he has written a dozen other works, including the Cambridge History of Portugal, and edited the three-volume History of Central Africa, with Phyllis Martin. He taught in African universities and at SOAS before being appointed to the chair of modern history at the University of Kent.