In 1482, when the Portuguese first landed in what is now northern Angola, they encountered the Kingdom of the Kongo, which stretched from modern Gabon in the north to the Kwanza River in the south. Mbanza Kongo, the capital, had a population of 50,000 people. South of this kingdom were various important states, of which the Kingdom of Ndongo, ruled by the ngola (king), was most significant. Modern Angola derives its name from the king of Ndongo.
The Portuguese gradually took control of the coastal strip throughout the 16th century by a series of treaties and wars. The Dutch occupied Luanda from 1641-48, providing a boost for anti-Portuguese states. In 1648, Brazilian-based Portuguese forces re-took Luanda and initiated a process of military conquest of the Congo and Ndongo states that ended with Portuguese victory in 1671. Full Portuguese administrative control of the interior did not occur until the beginning of the 20th century.
Portugal"s primary interest in Angola quickly turned to slavery. The slaving system began early in the 16th century with the purchase from African chiefs of people to work on sugar plantations in São Tomé, Principé, and Brazil. Many scholars agree that by the 19th century, Angola was the largest source of slaves not only for Brazil but also for the Americas, including the United States.
By the end of the 19th century, a massive forced labor system had replaced formal slavery and would continue until outlawed in 1961. It was this forced labor that provided the basis for development of a plantation economy and, by the mid-20th century, a major mining sector.
Forced labor combined with British financing to construct three railroads from the coast to the interior, the most important of which was the transcontinental Benguela railroad that linked the port of Lobito with the copper zones of the Belgian Congo and what is now Zambia, through which it connects to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
Colonial economic development did not translate into social development for native Angolans. The Portuguese