GONÇALO PIRES AND THE EARLY INHABITANTS OF SÃO TOMÉ OPEN ISSUES IN THE HISTORY OF STP

Andreas W.Massing
Investigador independente, Frankfurt
andmassing@aol.com

Much of what we know of the early Sao Tomé we owe to the observations of this mariner,who seems to have visited the island regularly. Valentim Fernandes mentions him explicitlyas source for his account of Sao Tome, but he also appears in several crucial documents (e.g.a petition of 1499, and letters by the king of Congo) and gives vital information on the early inhabitants of the island. The intention of this paper is to identify the groups of inhabitants which make up the early society of Sao Tome and to spark further research in their origins ordescent. It deals with the major groups mentioned in the sources:

– Among Portuguese: Degradados, officials , marinheiros (a transient population),family and relations of the Capitans
– Among Africans: forros, escravos, and nobles (members of the courts neighboring African states), and finally
– Os meninos or children of Jewish refugees of Granada

While the governorship of A.de Caminha (1494-99) is reasonably well documented there are many lacunae in official documents e.g. royal instructions or appointment letters, in particular concerning governor F.de Mello (1499 – 1509?) and his sons. Portuguese family names not being adequate markers for origin or descent we must rely on genealogical research, which may hold some promise for tracing some of the ancestors of the present population. Many questions also remain open with regard to early settlement and economic patterns.

Keywords: São Tomé, Guinea Atlantic islands, History colonization, Trade settlement inhabitants, Jewish diaspora

Biography note: I am an Independent Consultant (Development) but am currently enrolled in the Masters Program in Dept. of  Archaeology (African Archaeology) Frankfurt University – as a second field of study, after my retirement this year.  My URL is www.europeafric.de with address.