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COMPARATIVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE 16TH CENTURY: SANTIAGO DE CABO VERDE AND  SÃO TOMÉ

Robert Garfield
DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA
rgarfiel@depaul.edu

The islands discovered by Portugal in the 15th and 16th Centuries, of necessity, had to be made economically productive in order to cover the cost of their discovery and occupation, and to support in general the Portuguese overseas voyages.  Some of these islands, like Madéira or the Azores, were naturally productive; others, like Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands and São Tomé, needed a great deal of effort and investment if they were to be worth the trouble and expense of ruling them, and if they were to contribute to the wealth of Portugal.
This paper compares the development of the two latter islands, one a tropical and fertile land which required huge amounts of labor to become economically valuable; the second a semi-desert whose development and economic worth was based largely on its location and on a modest attempt to produce items for passing ships. Both had to confront the fact of having no native population, and how to overcome this central disadvantage.  It discusses the various schemes and plans to make the two islands valuable for the Portuguese Crown, especially in regards to an adequate labor supply.  It notes how location, as well as ecology, effectively determine the ability of outsiders to make islands, especially, economically viable.  Finally, it concludes with some comparative views on the applicability of these islands’ histories to present-day possibilities of economic development for equally small islands that generally lack a large natural resource base.

Keywords: Santiago de Cabo Verde, São Tomé, development, labor, location

Biographic note
Robert Garfield.
I was born and raised in New York City and graduated from the City University of New York.  I did my graduate work at Northwestern University,  in Evanston, Illinois and there received my Ph.D. and a Certificate in African Studies.  I have been teaching since 1969 at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.  I have published a book on the history of Sao Tome, as well as over two dozen articles and conference presentations on Sao Tome and other African history topics.  I have also published a three-volume textbook on World History and edited texts on modern European history. Besides teaching African History, I also teach modern European and World History and courses on the use of film for history teaching