MATERIAL: Hand-Written/Painted
TYPE: Documents (Loose)
DIMENSIONS: 12 x 8.25 inches
ITEM ID: 5204
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Portuguese Document from Mombasa, Kenya

DATE
Year: 1690
Decade: 1690s
Century: 17th (1601-1700)
Notes: August 28th of 1690

An old Portuguese document.

According to scholar Francisco Santos Silva, “This is from 28th of August of 1690 and concerns the establishment of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia in Mombaça (today Mombasa in Kenya). It wouldn’t last long as Mombasa would fall to the Oman Imamate in 1698. The letter is addressed to the Ombudsman and remaining members of the table (administrators) and from what I can read seems to attempt to determine what the Misericórdia could do in Mombasa.”

Vasco da Gama was the first known European to visit Mombasa, receiving a chilly reception in 1498. Two years later, the town was sacked by the Portuguese. In 1502, the sultanate became independent from Kilwa Kisiwani and was renamed as Mvita (in Swahili) or Manbasa (Arabic). The Portuguese has since in encounter with the city several times; first under Tristão da Cunha in 1506, later under Afonso de Albuquerque in 1522 to quell an attempted mutiny by the sultan’s nephew in Pemba and Zanzibar, and finally the destruction of the city nder Nuno da Cunha again in 1528 after the Malindi sultan failed to pay tribute.

In 1585, a joint military expedition between the Somalis of Ajuran Empire and the Turks of Ottoman Empire, led by Emir ‘Ali Bey, successfully captured Mombasa, and other coastal cities in Southeast Africa from the Portuguese. However, Malindi remained loyal to Portugal. The Zimba overcame the towns of Sena and Tete on the Zambezi, and in 1587 they took Kilwa, killing 3,000 people. At Mombasa, the Zimba slaughtered the Muslim inhabitants, but they were halted at Malindi by the Bantu-speaking Segeju and went home. This stimulated the Portuguese to take over Mombasa a third time in 1589, and four years later they built Fort Jesus to administer the region. Between Lake Malawi and the Zambezi mouth, Kalonga Mzura made an alliance with the Portuguese in 1608 and fielded 4,000 warriors to help defeat their rival Zimba, who were led by chief Lundi. After the building of Fort Jesus, Mombasa was put by the Portuguese under the rule of members of the ruling family of Malindi. In 1631 Dom Jeronimo the ruler of Mombasa slaughtered the Portuguese garrison in the city and defeated the relief force sent by the Portuguese. In 1632 Dom Jeronimo left Mombasa and became a pirate. That year the Portuguese returned and established direct rule over Mombasa. With the capture of Fort Jesus in 1698, the town came under the influence of the Imamate of Oman, subordinate to the Omani rulers on the island of Unguja, prompting regular local rebellions. Mombasa was briefly returned to Portuguese rule by captain-major Álvaro Caetano de Melo Castro (12 March 1728 – 21 September 1729), then four new Omani Liwali until 1746, when the last of them made it independent again (disputed by Oman), as the first of its recorded Sultans.