Roman Catholic Christian missionaries from Portugal had followed closely on the heels of Portuguese coastal penetration of tropical Africa. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Catholic missionaries were sent to Africa to convert a number of African rulers, who, it was hoped, would become useful allies of the Portuguese. But once African rulers realised the strong political motivation behind their presence, the missionaries’ initiative was doomed to failure. In one African state after another, Portuguese missionaries were expelled or even killed. This was largely because they and their handful of converts offered a direct challenge to the established religious and political order. African rulers were interested in contact with Europeans, but they wanted new trading openings, technical assistance and firearms. They did not want new ideas that threatened to undermine the traditional religious basis of their authority.
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