Ultimatum


by Landeg White
Cinnamon Press 2017
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January, 1890 — Britain threatens Portugal with an Ultimatum: Abandon south-east Africa or face a naval bombardment of Lisbon.

Three centuries earlier, the poet, Luís Vaz de Camões, described the region at issue —

Behold the lake which is the Nile’s source.
And the green Zambezi, too, begins its course.

Further upstream, the river becomes serpentine, twisting itself into a vast swamp, known to Europeans as Elephant Marsh, choked with papyrus, monstrous baobabs, and marabou storks like coffins. Every mud bank has a gang of crocodiles, the air thick with mosquitoes and the nearest horizon a tousled fringe of swamp palms…

Could the European Powers go to War over such a Wilderness?