Shana Melnysyn, Anthropology and History, Mary I. and David D. Hunting Family Fellow

"Rum & Revenge: Portuguese-Angolan Trade and the Bailundo Revolt of 1902"

This project is an anthropological history of an uprising against Portugal, during its colonial invasion of Angola (southwest Africa). In 1902, the Bailundo Kingdom refused to recognize Portuguese authority. Bailundo people began attacking rum traders and plundering commercial goods, and violence spread across the region. The revolt followed a decades-long pattern of continuous anticolonial resistance throughout Angola. European settlers, seeking fortunes in trade, were threatening local people's lands, possessions, and autonomy with increasing frequency and brutality. Portuguese officials lamented their own ineffectiveness, often admitting that Angolans had legitimate grievances against traders. In this laboratory of unregulated capitalism, traders enforced a twisted version of justice in remote areas where they were sometimes the only face of colonialism, sparking widespread moral anxiety about power and authority. Using oral history interviews and diverse archival sources, this work explores in detail the cultural (mis)understandings and conflicts that marked this time of rapid social change.