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Kongo in the Age of Empire, 1860–1913
The Breakdown of a Moral Order
Jelmer Vos

Africa and the Diaspora: History, Politics, Culture
Thomas Spear, Neil Kodesh, Tejumola Olaniyan, Michael G. Schatzberg, and James H. Sweet, Series Editors

A case study of colonialism in Africa from economic, religious, and political perspectives that examines the participation of African elites in colonial rule

This richly documented account of the arrival of rubber traders, new Christian missionaries, and the Portuguese colonial state in the Kongo realm is told from the perspective of the kingdom’s inhabitants. Jelmer Vos shows that both Africans and Europeans were able to forward differing social, political, and economic agendas as Kongo’s sacred city of São Salvador became a vital site for the expansion of European imperialism in Central Africa. Kongo people, he argues, built on the kingdom’s long familiarity with Atlantic commerce and cultures to become avid intermediaries in a new system of colonial trade and mission schools.

Vos underlines that Kongo’s incorporation in the European state system also had tragic consequences, including the undermining of local African structures of authority—on which the colonial system actually depended. Kongo in the Age of Empire carefully documents the involvement of Kongo’s royal court in the exercise of Portuguese rule in northern Angola and the ways that Kongo citizens experienced colonial rule as an increasingly illegitimate extension of royal power.

Jelmer Vos is an assistant professor of history at Old Dominion University.



“A fascinating, well-researched account placing Kongo dynastic rivalries at the center of the kingdom’s engagement with Portuguese colonialism. Vos rejects contemporary European narratives of cultural decline in the kingdom. . . . Highly recommended.”

“[Vos] never speaks for his subjects, skillfully allowing them to speak for themselves and then adding concisely penetrating highlights of what they said to advance his argument and his readers’ understanding.”
African Studies Review

“A Kongo-centered view of how the country entered into the Portuguese domains, but also how its elite guided that entrance with their own agenda. An insightful look at the onset of colonialism in Central Africa.”
—John K. Thornton, Boston University


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New in Paperback!
October, 2017
LC: 2015008826 DT
234 pp.   6 x 9
9 b/w photos, 3 maps, 1 table

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Paper $19.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-30624-3
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Cloth $65.00 s
ISBN 978-0-299-30620-5
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