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The former official and still usual name given to the Portuguese possessions on the eastern coast of Africa opposite the island of Madagascar. Portuguese East Africa extends from Cape Delgado (10° 41' S. lat.) to the south of Delagoa Bay (25° 58'), that is about twelve hundred miles. It is bounded on the north by German East Africa ; on the east by the Mozambique Channel; on the south by the Indian Ocean, and on the west by British South and Central Africa. It is the second largest Portuguese colony, its area approximating 293,000 square miles (that of Portuguese Angola is about 400,000); its population is between two and three millions. The coasts, in general low and marshy, are intersected here and there by rivers which terminate in almost every instance in muddy deltas or estuaries choked with sand. The low-lying tract between the Limpopo River and the delta of the Zambesi is barren, sprinkled with lagoons, malarial, and infested by the terrible tsee-tsee fly, which renders cattle-raising, the one industry otherwise suited to parts of this area, impossible. Between the Zambesi and the Rovuma the soil is very fertile, especially in the basin of the former river, where the land is fertilized by periodical inundations and produces abundant crops. The climate of the regions along the coast is torrid, unhealthy, and subject to sudden and great variations; the mean annual temperature is very high (76° at Beira). As one proceeds inland, the soil rises gradually, terrace over terrace, attaining a great altitude in the mountains which border on Lake Shirwa. In the interior both soil and climate are favourable to cultivation and European life; the chief crops are millet, maize, rice, wheat, sesame, earth-nuts, sugar-cane, cocoa, and tobacco. The largest forests of the interior yield ebony, sandalwood, a number of other valuable timbers, and india-rubber. Besides an unusual variety of game, the fauna include the elephant, antelope, buffalo, lion, leopard, and, in certain districts, the rhinoceros and the hippopotamus. The mineral deposits, include coal, iron, and gold, are of exceptional importance, but not yet fully investigated.

Long before the arrival of the first European explorers, the Arabs, taking advantage of the regularity of the monsoons which greatly facilitated their voyages, carried on a brisk commerce with this portion of East Africa, and were in possession of the island of Mozambique when it was discovered by Vasco de Gama in 1498. Sofala had been already discovered by Covilham, another Portuguese, in 1489. The Portuguese had at first to contend with the fierce opposition of the Arabs who dominated all the adjacent country. In 1505 Alburquerque established at the mouth of the Sofala River the first European settlement. Vasco de Gama captured the island of Mozambique in 1506, and thanks to his exertions and those of other Portuguese captains (Saldanha, Almeida, and Tristão da Cunha) the neighbouring country was quickly brought under Portuguese rule. Although the Portuguese sent an expedition up the Zambesi about 1565 and occupied Tete in 1632, they seem to have paid scant attention to the interior. In 1607 and 1608 the Dutch made unsuccessful attempts on Mozambique, but in 1698 the resumed attacks of the Arabs, supported by the Sultan of Mascote, reduced the Portuguese territory to the country south of Cape Delgado. The waning political importance and power of Portugal rendered efficient colonization and control impossible. To the great feebleness of the authorities at home is due the late continuation of the slave trade between Mozambique and Madagascar, which was carried on surreptitiously until 1877. The discovery of gold in the interior of Africa about 1870 turned the tide of prosperity again in favour of Mozambique, as its ports were the natural outlets for the Transvaal and the more northern territories.

The explorations of Serpa Pinto in 1877 and subsequent years also led Portugal to take a keener interest in its possessions. In 1875 the dispute between England and Portugal for the possession of Delagoa Bay was decided by the arbitrator Mac Mahon, in favour of Portugal. The result of a subsequent collision between English and Portuguese claims was less favourable to Portugal. According to the modern theory of hinterland , Portugal claimed dominion over the territory situated between her possessions on the east and west coasts of Africa ; but when in 1889 England proclaimed its protectorate over Matabeleland, Mashonaland, Nyassaland etc., Portugal, notwithstanding the immense indignation aroused by the occurrence at Lisbon, had to acquiesce. In 1891 lack of capital compelled the Portuguese government to lease with administrative authority a large portion of the colony to the Mozambique and Nyassa Companies; the former controls the Manica and Sofala regions, and the latter the territory enclosed between the Rovuma, Lake Nyassa, and the Lurio River. It is generally accepted that the Anglo-German Secret Treaty of 1898 dealt with the partition of Mozambique in the event that Portugal should be unable to extricate itself from its financial difficulties. The chief exports of Mozambique are rubber, sugar, various ores, wax, and ivory ; it imports mainly cottons, hardware, spirits, beer, and wine. Lourenco Marques (9849 inhabitants), the capital of the colony, and Beira are thriving ports. The town of Mozambique (properly San Sebastian of Mozambique), situated on the island of the same name, has diminished greatly in importance since the abolition of the slave trade. The college built by the Jesuits in 1670, which was made the governor's residence after the suppression of the order, is one of the very few buildings of importance.

The early explorers were accompanied on their voyages by Franciscan fathers who founded under Alvarez of Coimbra the first mission in Mozambique in 1500. In 1560, after the arrival of the Jesuits, a glorious future seemed to await the mission, the King of Inhambane and the Emperor of Monomotapa being baptized with numbers of their subjects. The Dominicans also laboured for a period in this colony, their most illustrious representative being João dos Santos (d. 1622), whose work, "L' Ethiopia oriental e varia historia de cousas notaveis do Oriente", was long authoritative on the geography and ethnology of the country. The Jesuits returned in 1610 and were followed by the Carmelites. The work of evangelization was, however, attended with great difficulties owing to the fickleness of the natives, the opposition of the Mohammedans, the insalubrity of the climate, and the irregular communications with Europe. The powerlessness of Portugal to exercise a firm control and the demoralizing effects of the slave trade resulted in an equally low standard of morals in the case of both the whites and the natives. In recent years the missionaries were still further hampered by the anti-Catholic policy of the Government. Ecclesiastically speaking, Mozambique is an exempt prelature belonging to the ecclesiastical province of Goa. The prelature formerly included all the territory as far as the Cape, but is now confined to the Portuguese possessions. In 1898 it was entrusted to the Portuguese branch of the Friars Minor. According to the latest statistics it contains: 12 priests (4 Friars Minor ), 13 Sisters, 3500 native Catholics, 11 churches and chapels, 10 stations.

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