Of peasants and settlers: ideals of Portugueseness, imperial nationalism and European settlement in Africa, c.1930–c.1945

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This article examines policies and ideas of European settlement in Africa through the lens of imperial rhetoric and nationalist imaginations in Portugal during the first decades of Salazar’s dictatorship. Even though European settlement in Africa was under discussion since Brazil’s independence, the debate was invigorated in the 1930s. This article will place the renewed interest within the wider context of transnational migration, world economic crisis and inter-European competition for colonial dominance before the Second World War. Although European settlement was perceived as necessary both in terms of domestic social regulation and international competition at the time, state-sponsored settlements in Portuguese Africa were not a reality until the worldwide process of decolonization had started. On the contrary, not only did Portuguese political elites not invest in settlement schemes, but they actually adopted measures to curb migration to the colonies up until 1945, contradicting their imperialist rhetoric at home. The author argues that the contradiction between rhetoric and practice needs to be analysed in light of the growing desire to intensify control over space and people in European settlements in Africa. Barriers to block undesirable migrants from the metropole were only one part of the process of forcing an idealized vision of Portugal and Portugueseness into reality in both the colonies and the metropole. This article concludes that policies and ideas of European Settlement cannot be dissociated from the anti-urban rhetoric and anti-modernizing agenda of Estado Novo.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-186
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Review Of History-Revue Europeenne D Histoire
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • migration
  • European settlement
  • nationalism
  • imperial rhetoric
  • Portuguese New State


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