Discuss the interaction between Portuguese explorers and the Khoekhoe of the south-western Cape in the two decades from the 1490s onward.

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When the Portuguese first arrived in southern Africa, they quickly established a trading relationship with the Khoekhoe. In fact, trading with foreigners was nothing new for the Khoekhoe. They had been interacting with a wide range of people and civilizations for centuries. They soon had a lively trading relationship with...

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When the Portuguese first arrived in southern Africa, they quickly established a trading relationship with the Khoekhoe. In fact, trading with foreigners was nothing new for the Khoekhoe. They had been interacting with a wide range of people and civilizations for centuries. They soon had a lively trading relationship with the Portuguese. Often, the Khoekhoe would trade their cattle for European-produced metal goods and textiles. However, this amicable relationship did not last long. For one thing, the introduction of diseases such as smallpox caused a dramatic decline in the population of the Khoekhoe. This resulted in the destruction of their social structure.

Misunderstandings also led to frequent violent encounters between the Khoekhoe and the Portuguese. Even Vasco de Gama was wounded in a skirmish with the Khoekhoe. In 1509 there was the largest confrontation of this period. When some Portuguese sailors were attacked attempting to steal some of the Khoekhoe's cattle, Portuguese viceroy Francisco de Almeida led an attack party against a Khoekhoe village. The attack quickly turned into a rout as the Portuguese forces were forced back to their ships after suffering numerous casualties.

These are just a couple of the violent encounters between these two peoples during this period. While there were many attempts by both peoples to maintain mutually beneficial trade, mistrust and misunderstanding frequently led to violence.

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