Portuguese Congo

Portuguese Congo

Portuguese Congo





Quick reference

General issues: Portuguese protectorate 1894-1920

Country name on general issues: Congo

Currency: 1 Milreis = 1000 Reis 1894-1913, 1 Escudo = 100 Centavos 1913-1920

Population: No period statistics available, 50 500 in 1950

Political history Portuguese Congo

Postal history Portuguese Congo

Please click on the image to enlarge

Portuguese Congo is located in central Africa. Portuguese Congo is home to the Bakongo – a Bantu people living in several countries, both north and south of the mouth of the Congo River. The Portuguese first settled in Portuguese Congo in the 15th century, establishing a trade post at Cabinda. Until the late 19th century, the Portuguese were focused mainly on trade. When the ‘Scramble for Africa’ was at its height, Portugal set out to secure the hinterland of Cabinda. Treaties were signed with the local chiefs in 1883 and 1884, culminating in an 1885 treaty of protection with the heirs to the Ngoyo, Loanga and Kakongo kingdoms. Meanwhile, in 1884, at the conference of Berlin where the colonial powers defined their respective spheres of influence, Cabinda was awarded to Portugal. The Belgians, however, claimed – and were awarded – a corridor from Belgian Congo to the Atlantic Ocean. Thus, at the end of the Berlin conference in 1885, the protectorate of Portuguese Congo was established, albeit separated from Angola – the much larger Portuguese colony south of the Congo River. The borders were detailed in further treaties between 1885 and 1894.

Portuguese Congo, until the 1970’s, retained its position as a de jure separate entity within the Portuguese colonial empire. De facto Cabinda was, from around 1920, administered as the Cabinda district of Angola. When Angola became independent in 1975, Portugal confirmed Cabinda to be an integral part of Angola. Cabinda is currently a province of Angola. Cabinda is of importance to Angola because of its mineral resources – the largest off shore oil fields in the world are to be found off the coast of Cabinda. The geographic and ethnic separation from Angola, combined with its long lasting status as a de jure separate entity, has resulted in a tradition of secessionist movements in Cabinda. A government in exile of the republic of Cabinda currently resides in Paris.

Postal history Portuguese Congo

Postal history Portuguese Congo

1894 – King Carlos

The first postage stamps were issued for Portuguese Congo in 1894 – a set of definitives with the portrait of King Carlos. This, and following sets of definitives issued, are of the types common to Portugal and the Portuguese colonies. A second set with the portrait of King Carlos, of a different but equally common design, is issued in 1898. A set of the Ceres type is issued in 1914. Aside from these definitives, many stamps have been issued with overprints, especially after the fall of the monarchy and the establishment of the republic in Portugal in 1910 – the overprint reading ‘Republica’. In 1911, a set of overprints is issued on stamps of Angola. In 1913, overprints are issued for the new currency. It is interesting to note that, for this overprint, stamps of the 1898 Vasco da Gama issue for all of Portuguese Africa and stamps of Macau and Timor have been used.

The stamps of Portuguese Congo have been used until 1920, when they were superseded by the general issues for Angola.

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2 Responses to Portuguese Congo

  1. Admir


    After couple months I’m back again. In fact I found today one interesting map of Portuguese Congo in The Philatelic Atlas (Hlinka & Mucha, 1987) which shows that this colony wasn’t only enclave Cabinda but also rather large part of today north Angola (between Loje and Congo river). This colony unites all territories of former Kingdom of Congo (which was divided between France, Belgium and Portugal at Berlin Conference in 1884), devolved to Portugal. Is it possible that all other relevant resources about Portuguese Congo are wrong?

    • Gerben


      Welcome back. I am familiar with the map. It is also in the Scott Stamp Atlas by the same authors. As you already imply no other resources seem to concur on this view of Portuguese Congo. Looking at the issue in more detail, you will find that the three kingdoms that signed the treaty of protection that formed Portuguese Congo in 1885, shortly after the Berlin conference, are all located north of the river Congo. The authors probably had a reason for drawing the map as they did, but since they seem to stand alone in their view, I chose not to follow their view.

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