British Museum collections, £12.99
Diameter: 44.000 mm
Coins and Medals
Bronze 1 macuta of José I of Portugal (1750-77)
Angola, West Africa, AD 1762
A coin minted in Europe for use in Africa
In the eighteenth century, as the western European nations expanded their empires into the Caribbean and the Americas, they sought slaves to work in their new colonies. Portugal was among those nations who settled on the west coast of Africa in the search for gold and slaves. Traditional currencies such as cowrie shells and bronze manillas continued to be used alongside the coins, first introduced by the Portuguese in 1693.
The Portuguese macuta was first issued in 1762. Its name derives from a west African unit of account said to be derived from a length of cloth. Like the earlier Portuguese coins issued for the colonies, the macuta were produced in Portugal. The designs of Portuguese colonial coins were often similar across the various settlements, although the colonies themselves were widely scattered. They showed the crowned coat of arms of Portugal and a globe, the symbol of the Portuguese empire overseas.