São Tomé e Príncipe

From the Age of Discovery to the “Grande Fous”

The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe did not know the presence of the Man until 1470, when the Portuguese navigators João de Santarém and Pedro Escobar discovered them.

The archipelago was uninhabited, reason why the Portuguese settlers were the first to inhabit the islands. After the settlers began to arrive slaves, mainly coming from Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde.

Based in good climatic and geographic conditions and in slave labor, São Tomé became the world leader in sugar cane production in 1560, with guaranteed outlets for Northern European markets.

Sugar production is ultimately affected by competition from Brazilian production and conflicts between a white minority and a black majority, weakening the country’s socio-economic situation.

The situation was further aggravated by the invasions of English, French and

Dutch corsairs, who invaded, destroyed and occupied Sao Tome and Principe several times. It was a great exodus of the failed planters to Brazil.

Thus, during about two centuries (XVII and XVIII), the Archipelago experienced a period of depopulation, in which the local activity was destined almost exclusively to the business of slaves and supplies for the ships.

This period of stoppage and recession became known as the “Great Settlement”.


From Economic Renaissance to São Tomé and Príncipe of the 20th and 21st Centuries

Despite the period of stagnation that affected the islands, they eventually recovered with the introduction of coffee, around 1787, and cocoa, around 1821.

It was at this time of growth that many Portuguese families settled and built the great Roças, which still today are an icon of the archipelago. Sao Tome and Principe even became, between 1895 and 1905, the largest exporter of cocoa in the world.

However, this apogee is eventually affected by social disruptions related to the problem of slave labor and to the beginnings of the early abolitionist movements. The owners, fearing to lose power and wealth, fight with all means against the abolition of slavery.The abolition of slavery was to take place in 1875, with the enactment of the law that prohibited all areas of Portuguese Africa, and which would lead to the collapse of many of these fortunes.

During the new state, the archipelago would benefit from ambitious projects of urbanization and modernization of the city and the infrastructures of the islands, like residential zones, Airport, stadium, schools and municipal swimming pool.

Despite the formal abolition of slavery, many of the blacks, though not considered as slaves, continued to be treated as slaves. In this way, the revolt led to the formation of a nationalist and independentist sentiment in Sao Tome society.

In 1960, the São Tomé Liberation Committee (CLSTP) was created, which gave rise to the Liberation Movement of São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP) in 1974.
In the midst of the Cold War, communist influences start to make themselves felt.

In 1974, the Revolution of 25 April in Portugal put an end to the regime of dictatorship, and the following year, on July 12, Sao Tome and Principe attained independence.

The MLSTP assumes the power and designates Manuel Pinto da Costa as the first President of the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, succeeded in 1991, the year of the first free elections, Miguel Trovoada, as President of the Republic.

In 2001, Fradique de Menezes was elected President of the Republic.

In 2011, the year in which 36 years of independence were celebrated, Pinto da Costa is elected President of the Republic.