Understanding the Database

Data Sources, Variables, & Values

Data Sources

The database hosted on Between Oceans and Continents is made of variables and values extracted from the registers of slave and freed Africans from Portuguese Mozambique. A total of eight registers have survived to present and are currently located at the Historical Archive of Mozambique. They consist of ledgers originally printed and bounded in Lisbon and dispatched for colonial officials to complete with the information required by the Royal Decree of December 14, 1854.

The front page of each ledger indicated the district to which it belonged and whether it referred to a register of slaves or libertos (freed Africans). They typically had ten columns laid across two pages in the following order: number of order of the masters, name of the masters and their place of residence, number of order of the slaves (or libertos), name of the slaves (or libertos), sex (subdivided into two columns, marked with a sequential number for each sex), origin, probable age in years, body markings, occupation, and a column for observations. The image below shows a sample from the slave register of Bazaruto.

Bazaruto slave register

In 1868, the provincial government of Mozambique, requested copies of the registers from some districts to be sent to the capital, in Mozambique Island. Samples of these have survived for the districts of Inhambane, Quelimane, and Sofala. Although they were supposed to be exact copies, they contain a few records of individuals that were not listed in the original registers. The provincial governors were also responsible for sending extracts of the registers of slave and freed Africans to Lisbon periodically. A couple of these have been located for slaves registered in Quelimane and Tete at the Overseas Historical Archive of Portugal. They consist of abbreviated entries displaying only the names of the individuals listed in addition to their number, sex, and age. All these records, however, were merged with the original registers or added to the database provided on this website.

Default Variables

The default variables of the database reproduce the values available in the registers’ columns, adjusted to fit the electronic format, that provide personal details about the slave and freed Africans.

Omitted Variables

These variables are present in the database, and will be accessible if the database is downloaded in its unfiltered form, but for readability were excluded from the interactive database here.