history

Our history

The young Creole nation of Sao Tome and Principe just rounded 30 years, and still has to deal with its past as a Portuguese colony, when it comes to political and economical relations as well as cultural identity.

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São Tomé and Príncipe was discovered by João de Santarém and Pêro Escobar and claimed by the Portuguese in the late 15th century. The exact year of the discovery is not clear, but it was probably between 1470 and 1471 (The sources differ a bit when it comes to the exact year).

The Island of Sao Tomé was discovered on the day of Saint Thomas, on December 21 (hence the name).
The archipelago was left 'discovered' but abandoned until 1485 when the first feudal lord, João de Paiva by royal decree tried to settle São Tomé and cultivate sugarcane. However, the attempt failed, due to tropical diseases.

The effective settlement in São Tomé began in 1493 and in Príncipe about 1500. In the following century, São Tomé and Príncipe's economy was based on sugar and slave trade.
From the 9th of July to the 29th of July 1595, there was a slave revolt on the island of São Tomé during which the legendary Reí Amador was caught and hung on the 14th of August. From 1641 - 1648 the Dutch occupied the port and the fort of São Tomé. In 1709 the French assaulted the town.
The Dutch were driven out but the instability, caused by attacks from runaway slaves and also the French lasted for many years. During this period, many of the investors from the first period of settlement, left the island for safer places like Brazil. The islands then passed through a period of severe economical, political and social crisis.
By the mid-19th century the economy of the islands started a new prosperous period thanks to the introduction of two new cash crops - coffee (1787, Baptista da Silva) and cocoa (1822, Baron of Água Izé).

In 1875 slavery was abolished and the islands began to contract labour from Angola and later on from Mozambique, Cape Verde and other parts of the Portuguese Empire.

During the last decades of the 19th century Sao Tomé was the world's second biggest producer of cocoa with an annual production of about 13.500 tons (the biggest producer being Ecuador with and annual production of 27,700 tons).
By 1909, São Tomé produced 30,300 tons of cocoa – the highest production ever – and became the world's third largest producer of cocoa (after the Gold Coast and Brazil). But soon after followed a boycott of Santomean cocoa, instigated by the British chocolate company, Cadbury, against the inhuman living conditions of the African contract workers in Sao Tomé. The crisis was aggravated by the first world war and cocoa output continued to decline due to crop diseases, soil erosion, and high production costs.
In 1953, on February 3rd, the Massacre of Batepá started in which possibly hundreds of people were killed on the orders of Governor Carlos Gorgulho (1945-1953). The Portuguese were facing difficulties with controlling their colonies all over the world and were supposedly making an (exaggerated) example of Sao Tomé.

When Caetano was overthrown in Portugal in April 1974, the dissolution of the overseas Empire began and on July 12, 1975, independence was achieved in Sao Tomé and Principe. A socialist republic was formed and Manuel Pinto da Costa became the first president of the Republic.
The new republic of Sao Tomé and Principe then passed through a period of nationalizations of the former Portuguese plantations with help from the Soviet Union and their allies. During this time the contact with the rest of the world was limited.
In 1990, the socialist system was substituted by a multiparty system and the first free elections were held in 1991. The new President was Miguel dos Anjos Trovoada who stayed president until September, 2001. The current President of the Republic is Fradique Melo de Menezes, who won the 2001 elections over the other main candidate, former president Manuel Pinto da Costa.
In the 1990s oil has been found within the maritime territory of São Tomé and Principe and in 2001 a contract on a Joint Development Zone was signed with Nigeria for the extraction of offshore oil. On the 30th of July this year, Fradique de Menezes was re-elected with more than 60 % of the votes for another 5 years as President of the Republic.

In 2011 Manuel Pinto da Costa was elected President of the Republic with 52,88 % of the votes .