Kongo Empire

Born: 1390

Died: 1914

Birth Place: Congo {Democratic Rep}

Known for: The Kingdom of Kongo was a bustling centre for trade, and one of the most powerful states on Africa’s West Coast.

The capital of the kingdom was Mbanza Kongo.

The kingdom of Kongo had a population of well over 2 million people at its peak.

The kingdom produced its own goods via specialised groups of craftworkers such as weavers (who produced the famous raffia fabrics of Kongo), potters, and metalworkers.

Kongo Empire

Life story


Unified Kongo


The Kingdom of Kongo began in the 14th century in West Africa, when a group of Kongo people moved south. They conquered smaller kingdoms and in the mid-15th century a unified Kongo Kingdom was formed. It included parts of what is today known as Angola, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Because of its location, Kongo was able to trade its natural resources with European merchants. Historians have found evidence of wealth and craftsmanship including pottery, beautiful fabrics, such as velvet and brocades, and metalwork.


International trade


The Portuguese were impressed by the trading systems of the kingdom, and they formed a diplomatic relationship in the early 1480s and started trading.


The relationship with the Portuguese turned sour due to the exploitation of the kingdom’s resources. The Portuguese saw the region as a source for enslavement and, despite the kingdom’s resistance to this, they were not able to stop the expansion of the slave trade, and the increasing power of the Portuguese in the region.


War and change


Many wars were fought between the Kingdom of Kongo and the Portuguese from the 1560s to the 1570s. Due to internal fighting, there was no organised or unified resistance, and Portugal’s influence and control grew stronger. Between 1620-1655, war between the Kingdom of Kongo and the Portuguese raged, and the Portuguese were eventually victorious at the Battle of Mbwila.


Despite the defeat, the Kingdom of Kongo continued to exist, but it’s reign as a unified kingdom ended. Civil war broke out during most of the rest of the 17th and 18th centuries. Thousands of Kongo people were lost to the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and the Portuguese controlled the entire region. Many years later, a revolt against the Portuguese led to the complete collapse of the Kingdom of Kongo, and it became fully integrated into the Portuguese colony of Angola.

The Kingdom of Kongo had an estimated population of well over two million people.

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