The Slavery Patent: The First Patent Ever Granted, In 1455

A Chronicler said:

By the midst of the 15th century, a crew of portuguese sailors looking for African people to capture and sell back in Portugal, landed somewhere near the coast of Guinea. They spotted a woman, probably 30 years old, with a baby, a boy of two years old, and a young girl fourteen years old.

Tree men of the crew jumped off the ship, and seized the woman. She was strong and resisted with vigor the assailants. Regardless of their male force, the tree men were unable to bring the woman aboard the ship.

A crew member witnessing the pitiful scene, got the idea to take the woman’s two years old baby instead, and the mother maternal instinct would naturally lead her to the ship.

What he did.
The mother cried loud, but have to follow her baby to the ship.

No one ever heard again about the woman, the baby boy, and the fourteen years old girl. They have vanished, for ever, into the tumultuous centuries of history which would follow.

Africa indeed entered its dark age, five centuries ago, following the conquest, slavery, and looting by Europeans, from Jean de Béthencourt Canary Islands 1402 conquest till today.

Africa is still in the dark age, and the purpose of this article, and many to come, is to shed light on what is a dark age, how it manifests itself, what brings dark age to an entire civilization, and how a renaissance is possible.

A new classification of the African history would be later proposed, with the last 5 centuries classified as “Africa Dark Age”, or the “Age of Shame”, which is likely to be followed from the next century, 22nd century, by a vibrant period of renaissance.

Till the end of the 14th century, the Islands of Canary were inhabitants by African people called the Guanches. Today the African population of the Canary islands is extinct. They have either been sold into slavery or exterminated through various means by the Europeans.

The Guanches were the inhabitants of the islands since 1000 BCE or perhaps earlier, and their 91 years of resistance to the European conquest did nothing to protect them from extinction.

Today, the Canary islands, only 100 Km from the Moroccan coast, have a population of 2,117,519 people almost entirely europeans. Canary’s population is bigger than some EU countries like Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia, Estonia, Lavia, or Cyprus.

The conquest of the Canary Islands in 1402, by Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle, and the subsequent frenzy appetite for easy gain, profit and loot, triggered millions of events which would put end to glorious previous century of prosperity in Africa.

in 1441, the Portuguese captains Antão Gonçalves and Nuno Tristão captured 12 Africans in Cabo Branco (modern Mauritania) and take them to Portugal as slaves, and obtain for them far greater price than any slave ever sold in Portugal.

News quickly spread all around Portugal about the fortune made by the captains, and how easy was it to land in Africa and capture people.

A horde of explorers eager for gain, easily found sponsors. In 1444 Lançarote de Freitas, a tax-collector from the Portuguese town of Lagos (a Portuguese City), formed a company to trade with Africa, and on August 8, 1444 de Freitas landed 235 kidnapped and enslaved Africans in Lagos, the largest group of African slaves ever brought to Europe.

When the ships arrived in Lagos, the chronicler Zurara wrote “their faces bathed in tears, looking at each other; others were groaning very dolorously, looking at the heights of the heavens, fixing their eyes upon them, crying out loudly . . . others struck their faces with their hands, throwing themselves on the earth. . . . [Now] came those who had the charge of the distribution, and they began to put them apart one from the other . . . to part children and parents, husbands and wives, and brethren from each other. . . . [T]he mothers enclosed their children in their arms and threw themselves with them on the ground, receiving wounds with little pity for their own flesh so that their children might not be torn from them! And so, with labour and difficulty, they concluded the partition.” – History of the Renaissance World, Susan Wise Bauer.

A Decade later, the African slave trade and the looting of Africa has grown exponentially. 3,500 Africans were captured yearly, and gold, elephant ivory, and much more pricy items were brought by explorers to Europe.

The King of Portugal, Afonso V, content with the new prosperity found by his country, decided to protect the portuguese lucrative trade with Africa from competition by appealing to the pope.

On June 18, 1452, the Italian pope Nicholas V issued a papal decision called “Dum Diversas”, giving the portuguese king Afonso V “full and free power, through the Apostolic authority . . . to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and . . . to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery.”

The Pope “perpetuam servitutem” used the power and authority of the Church to launch a christian crusade for the salvation of Africans through perpetual enslavement.

Three years later, the same Pope Nicholas V, outlined the geographical limitation of the 1452 decision, in a note called “Romanus Pontifex”, which specified that the perpetual slavery applies only to Africans, and grant a patent, called perpetual monopoly, to the Portuguese King for exclusive slave trade of Africans.

The patent was granted on the ground of the expenses accrued by Portuguese for exploring the coast of Africa, and the conquest of non-christians lands, or the enemies of the Church.

The patent allowed only Portuguese to capture and sell Africans as slaves. The 1455 patent covered only the African continent, and any other nation interested in engaging in the slave trade have to get a license from the Portuguese.

Unfortunately the salve commerce was too lucrative to be left alone to Portuguese. Many europeans nations slowly ignored the papal bull, and illegally engaged in the slave trade.

Despite Papal opposition, Spanish merchants began to trade in large numbers of slaves from the 1470s. The Dutch, French, English, etc would follow.

The lights have gone off. Africa plunged into the Dark age, and still in it.

Romanus pontifex, papal bull of Pope Nicolas V, Portugal, 8 January 1455

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About Mawuna KOUTONIN

Mawuna Koutonin is a world peace activist who relentlessly works to empower people to express their full potential and pursue their dreams, regardless of their background. He is the Editior of, Founder of, and Social activist for Africa Renaissance. Koutonin’s ultimate dream is to open a world-class human potential development school in Africa in 2017. If you are interested in learning more about this venture or Koutonin’s other projects, you can reach him directly by emailing at

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