• SmallBanner 01
  • SmallBanner 02
  • SmallBanner 03

Women along the Catumbela River, 1797: land ownership, agricultural production, labour and trade


Year published: 2020
Categories: Journal Article

Author / Authors:

  • José C. Curto


Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue canadienne des études africaines, DOI: 10.1080/00083968.2020.1749098


This paper investigates the multifaceted roles of women along the Catumbela River Basin, the “breadbasket” of Benguela, during a particular moment of its long agricultural history. It draws, first and foremost, upon an as yet unexploited census carried out along this river in 1797, which followed a short period of particularly high numbers of slaves being exported into the Atlantic world through Benguela. My contribution focuses on women in agricultural production, both as owners of rural estates and as free, freed or enslaved labourers, as well as in distributing agricultural produce via trade to the nearby urban market of Benguela, with its slightly less than 3200 permanent consumers. By capturing the various roles of women along the Catumbela River during a particular year, this paper highlights female agency within the context of a male-dominated world, expands our understanding of the development of agricultural properties, and adds to an ever-growing historiography that seeks to debunk simplistic and often anachronistic views of women in the African past.


  • Journal Article