Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza

Last updated
Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza
Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza by Paul Nadar.jpg
Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza photographed by Paul Nadar
Born(1852-01-26)January 26, 1852
DiedSeptember 14, 1905(1905-09-14) (aged 53)
Cause of deathdysentery
NationalityItalian-born French
Spouse(s)Thérèse de Chambrun
Relatives Adolphe de Chambrun (father-in-law)
Pierre de Chambrun (brother-in-law)
Charles de Chambrun (brother-in-law)
René de Chambrun (nephew)

Pietro Paolo Savorgnan di Brazzà, then known as Pierre Paul François Camille Savorgnan de Brazza (French pronunciation:  [pjɛʁ savɔʁɲɑ̃ də bʁaza] ; 26 January 1852 – 14 September 1905 [1] ), was an Italian explorer. With the backing of the Société de Géographie de Paris, he opened up for France entry along the right bank of the Congo that eventually led to French colonies in Central Africa. His easy manner and great physical charm, as well as his pacific approach among Africans, were his trademarks. Under French colonial rule, the capital of the Republic of the Congo was named Brazzaville after him and the name was retained by the post-colonial rulers.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Congo River river in central Africa

The great Congo River, formerly known as the Zaire River under the Mobutu regime, is the second longest river in Africa, shorter only than the Nile, as well as the second largest river in the world by discharge volume, following only the Amazon. It is also the world's deepest recorded river, with measured depths in excess of 220 m (720 ft). The Congo-Lualaba-Chambeshi River system has an overall length of 4,700 km (2,920 mi), which makes it the world's ninth-longest river. The Chambeshi is a tributary of the Lualaba River, and Lualaba is the name of the Congo River upstream of Boyoma Falls, extending for 1,800 km (1,120 mi).

Central Africa core region of the African continent

Central Africa is the core region of the African continent which includes Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda. Middle Africa is an analogous term that includes Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo, and São Tomé and Príncipe. All of the states in the UN subregion of Middle Africa, plus those otherwise commonly reckoned in Central Africa, constitute the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). Since its independence in 2011, South Sudan has also been commonly included in the region.


Early years

Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, by Felix Nadar Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza by Felix Nadar.jpg
Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, by Félix Nadar
Drawing of de Brazza (23 February 1895) Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, d'apres Pottier.jpg
Drawing of de Brazza (23 February 1895)

Born in Castel Gandolfo in the Papal States, near Rome, Pietro Savorgnan di Brazzà was the seventh son of Count Ascanio Savorgnan di Brazzà, a nobleman of Udine with many French connections, and his wife Giacinta Simonetti. Pietro was interested in exploration from an early age and won entry to the French naval school at Brest. [2] He graduated as an ensign and sailed on the French ship Jeanne d'Arc to Algeria, where he took part in the crushing of the Mokrani Revolt. [3]

Castel Gandolfo Comune in Lazio, Italy

Castel Gandolfo is a town located 25 kilometres (16 mi) southeast of Rome in the Lazio region of Italy. Occupying a height on the Alban Hills overlooking Lake Albano, Castel Gandolfo has a population of approximately 8,900 residents and is considered one of Italy's most scenic towns.

Papal States territories in the Appenine Peninsula under the sovereign direct rule of the pope between 752–1870

The Papal States, officially the State of the Church, were a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula under the direct sovereign rule of the Pope, from the 8th century until 1870. They were among the major states of Italy from roughly the 8th century until the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia unified the Italian Peninsula by conquest in a campaign virtually concluded in 1861 and definitively in 1870. At their zenith, the Papal States covered most of the modern Italian regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Romagna, and portions of Emilia. These holdings were considered to be a manifestation of the temporal power of the pope, as opposed to his ecclesiastical primacy.

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Exploration in Africa

Brazza first encountered Africa in 1872, while sailing on an anti-slavery mission near Gabon. [4] His next ship was the Vénus, which stopped at Gabon regularly. In 1874 Brazza made two trips into the interior, up the Gabon and Ogooué rivers. He then proposed to the government that he explore the Ogooué to its source. With the help of friends in high places, including Jules Ferry and Leon Gambetta, he secured partial funding, the rest coming from his own pocket. He was granted French citizenship in 1874, [2] and adopted the French spelling of his name. His efforts to gain citizenship had been aided by Louis Raymond de Montaignac de Chauvance, who acted as de Brazza's patron in the early years of his career. [3]

Gabon country in Africa

Gabon, officially the Gabonese Republic, is a country on the west coast of Central Africa. Located on the equator, Gabon is bordered by Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, the Republic of the Congo on the east and south, and the Gulf of Guinea to the west. It has an area of nearly 270,000 square kilometres (100,000 sq mi) and its population is estimated at 2 million people. Its capital and largest city is Libreville.

Jules Ferry French politician

Jules François Camille Ferry was a French statesman and republican. He was a promoter of laicism and colonial expansion.

Louis Raymond de Montaignac de Chauvance French politician

Louis Raymond marquis de Montaignac de Chauvance was a French naval officer and politician. He served as naval minister from 1874 to 1876.

In this expedition, which lasted from 1875–1878, 'armed' only with cotton textiles and tools to use for barter, and accompanied by Noel Ballay, a doctor, naturalist Alfred Marche, a sailor, thirteen Senegalese laptots and four local interpreters, Brazza charmed and talked his way deep inland. Upon his return to Paris he was fêted as a celebrity in the French press and was courted by the French political elite as the man to advance their imperialist ambitions in Africa. [5] The French authorized a second mission, which was carried out 1879-1882. The French had adjudged his first mission a success and felt that a mission to the Congo Basin was needed to prevent Belgium from occupying the entire area. [2] By following the Ogoué River upstream and proceeding overland to the Lefini River and then downstream, de Brazza succeeded in reaching the Congo River in 1880 without encroaching on Portuguese claims. [6]

Antoine-Alfred Marche French naturalist

Antoine-Alfred Marche was a French naturalist and explorer. He visited Africa, the Philippines and finally the Mariana Islands. He made collections of various artifacts. He made a large collection of bird specimens from the Marianas between 22 April 1887 and May 1889 and some of them included new avian species.

Senegal republic in Western Africa

Senegal, officially the Republic of Senegal, is a country in West Africa. Senegal is bordered by Mauritania in the north, Mali to the east, Guinea to the southeast, and Guinea-Bissau to the southwest. Senegal also borders The Gambia, a country occupying a narrow sliver of land along the banks of the Gambia River, which separates Senegal's southern region of Casamance from the rest of the country. Senegal also shares a maritime border with Cape Verde. Senegal's economic and political capital is Dakar.


Laptots were African colonial troops in the service of France between 1750 and the early 1900s.

De Brazza then proposed to King Illoh Makoko of the Batekes that he place his kingdom under the protection of the French flag. Makoko, interested in trade possibilities and in gaining an edge over his rivals, signed the treaty. [7] Makoko also arranged for the establishment of a French settlement at Mfoa on the Congo's Malebo Pool, a place later known as Brazzaville; after de Brazza's departure, the outpost was manned by two Laptots under the command of Senegalese Sergeant Malamine Camara, whose resourcefulness had impressed de Brazza during their several months together trekking inland from the coast. During this trip he encountered Stanley near Vivi. Brazza did not tell Stanley that he had just signed a treaty with Makoko; it took Stanley some months to realise that he had been beaten in the "race" set by his sponsor, King Leopold. Brazza was again celebrated in France for his efforts. The press dubbed him "le conquérant pacifique", the peaceful conqueror, for his success in ensuring French imperial expansion without waging war. [8]

Flag of France national flagleds

The flag of France is a tricolour flag featuring three vertical bands coloured blue, white, and red. It is known to English speakers as the French Tricolour or simply the Tricolour. The Tricolour has become one of the most influential flags in history, with its three-colour scheme being copied by many other nations, both in Europe and the rest of the world.

Treaty express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law

A treaty is an agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an (international) agreement, protocol, covenant, convention, pact, or exchange of letters, among other terms. Regardless of terminology, all of these forms of agreements are, under international law, equally considered treaties and the rules are the same.

Brazzaville Place in Republic of the Congo

Brazzaville is the capital and largest city of the Republic of the Congo. Constituting the financial and administrative centre of the country, it is located on the north side of the Congo River, opposite Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The population of the capital is estimated to exceed 1.8 million residents, comprising more than a third of the national populace, 40% of whom are employed in non-agricultural professions. During World War II, Brazzaville was also the capital of Free France between 1940 and 1942.

In 1883, [9] De Brazza was named governor-general of the French Congo in 1886. [6] He was dismissed in 1897 due to poor revenue from the colony and journalist reports of conditions for the natives that some said were "too good." For his part Brazza had become somewhat disillusioned with the exploitative and repressive practices of the concessionary companies, which he had witnessed first-hand. [10]

French Congo former French colony in Central Africa

The French Congo or Middle Congo was a French colony which at one time comprised the present-day area of the Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and the Central African Republic.

A concession or concession agreement is a grant of rights, land or property by a government, local authority, corporation, individual or other legal entity.

De Brazza became a freemason in 1888. Initiated at the "Alsace-Lorraine" lodge in Paris, on June 26, 1888. [11] [12] [13]

By 1905, stories had reached Paris of injustice, forced labour and brutality under the laissez-faire approach of the Congo's new governor, Emile Gentil, to the new concession companies set up by the French Colonial Office and condoned by Prosper Philippe Augouard, Catholic Bishop of the Congo. Brazza was sent to investigate these stories and the resulting report was revealing and damning, in spite of many obstructions placed in his path. When his deputy Félicien Challaye put the embarrassing report before the National Assembly, the report was suppressed.

The oppressive conditions in the French Congo continued for decades. [14]

Personal life

Brazza married Thérèse de Chambrun. [15] As a result, Pierre de Chambrun and Charles de Chambrun were his brothers-in-law. Meanwhile, René de Chambrun, the son-in-law of Vichy France Prime Minister Pierre Laval, was his nephew. [15]

Death and memorials

The last tour of the Congo took a hard physical toll of Brazza, and on his return journey to Dakar he died of dysentery and fever (amid rumours that he had been poisoned). His body was repatriated to France and he was given a state funeral at Sainte-Clotilde, Paris, prior to interment at the cemetery of Père Lachaise. His widow, Thérèse, dissatisfied with the politicians' subsequent behaviour, had his body exhumed and reinterred in Algiers (capital of present-day Algeria). [16] The epitaph for his burial site in Algiers reads: "une mémoire pure de sang humain" ("a memory untainted by human blood").

Brazzaville Mausoleum

The Brazza mausoleum at Brazzaville Mosobrazza.png
The Brazza mausoleum at Brazzaville

In February 2005 Presidents Nguesso of Congo, Ondimba of Gabon and Chirac of France gathered at a ceremony to lay the foundation stone for a memorial to Pierre de Brazza, a mausoleum of Italian marble. On 30 September 2006, de Brazza's remains were exhumed from Algiers [17] along with those of his wife and four children. [18] They were reinterred in Brazzaville on 3 October in the new marble mausoleum which had been prepared for them and had cost some 10 million dollars. The ceremony was attended by three African presidents and a French foreign minister, who paid tribute to de Brazza's humanitarian work against slavery and the abuse of African workers.

Mausoleum controversy

The decision to honor Pierre de Brazza as a founding father of the Republic of the Congo has elicited protests among many Congolese. Mwinda Press , the journal of the Association of Congolese Democrats in France wrote articles quoting Théophile Obenga who depicted Pierre de Brazza as a colonizer and not a humanist, declaring him to have raped a Congolese woman, a princess and the equivalent of a Vestal Virgin, and to have pillaged villages, raising highly charged questions as to why the colonizer should be revered as a national hero instead of the Congolese who fought against colonization. [19]


  1. Pierre de Brazza at Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. 1 2 3 Hodge, Carl Cavanagh, ed. (2008). Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800-1914: A-K. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 106.
  3. 1 2 Berny Sèbe (2015). Heroic Imperialists in Africa: The Promotion of British and French Colonial Heroes, 1870-1939. Oxford University Press. p. 304.
  4. "Vita - Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza".
  5. Sèbe. Heroic Imperialists in Africa. p. 149.
  6. 1 2 Emmanuel Kwaku Akyeampong, Henry Louis Gates, Dictionary of African Biography, Volume 6, OUP USA, 2012, p. 3
  7. Sèbe, Heroic Imperialists in Africa, p. 148
  8. Mavor, Carol (2012). Black and Blue: The Bruising Passion of Camera Lucida, La Jetée, Sans Soleil, and Hiroshima Mon Amour. Duke University Press. p. 176.
  9. Histoire militaire des colonies, pays de protectorate et pays sous mandat. 7. "Histoire militaire de l'Afrique Équatoriale française". 1931. Accessed 9 October 2011. (in French)
  10. Anthony Appiah; Henry Louis Gates (2010). Encyclopedia of Africa, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. p. 205.
  11. Daniel Ligou (2011). Dictionnaire de la Franc-maçonnerie (in French). Presses Universitaires de France. p. 163.
  12. Laurent Kupferman; Emmanuel Pierrat (2012). Ce que la France doit aux francs-maçons (in French). éditions Grund.
  13. Jean Massicot (2010). La franc-maçonnerie (in French). édition Desnoël. p. 26.
  14. Sèbe, Heroic Imperialists in Africa, p. 305
  15. 1 2 Pourcher, Yves (Spring 2012). "Laval Museum". Historical Reflections. 38 (1): 105–125. doi:10.3167/hrrh.2012.380108. One day, the Count told me he had made a discovery of some papers that Josee had gathered about his parents, the Chambruns, and Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, his paternal uncle.
  16. Brazza’s death ministère de la culture et de la communication de France
  17. Africa explorer's remains exhumed, BBC News, 30 September 2006.
  18. African nation builds £1.4m marble mausoleum for colonial master, The Guardian, 4 October 2006
  19. Brea, Jennifer (9 October 2006). "Congo-Brazzaville: Should a Colonizer Be Honored Like a Founding Father?". Global Voices. Retrieved 13 September 2018.

Related Research Articles

History of the Republic of the Congo aspect of history

The history of the Republic of the Congo has been marked by diverse civilisations: indigenous, French and post-independence.

Ogooué River river

The Ogooué, some 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) long, is the principal river of Gabon in west central Africa and the fourth largest river in Africa by volume of discharge, trailing only the Congo, Niger and Zambezi. Its watershed drains nearly the entire country of Gabon, with some tributaries reaching into the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea.

Teke people ethnic group

The Teke people, or Bateke also known as the Tyo or Tio, are a Bantu Central African ethnic group that speak the Teke languages. Its population is situated mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo and with a minority in Gabon. Omar Bongo, who was President of Gabon in the late 20th century, was a Teke.

Lambaréné Place in Moyen-Ogooué, Gabon

Lambaréné is a town and the capital of Moyen-Ogooué in Gabon. With a population of 38,775 as of 2013, it is located 75 kilometres south of the equator.

Dolisie Place in Niari Department, Republic of the Congo

Dolisie, known as Loubomo between 1975 and 1991, is a city in the western province of Niari in the Republic of the Congo. It is the country's third largest city, and an important commercial centre. The city lies on the eastern edge of the coastal rainforest, and has a population of 83,798.

The Batéké Plateau is located around the border between the Republic of Congo and Gabon. In both countries it gave name to departments:

Battle of Gabon battle

The Battle of Gabon, also called the Gabon Campaign, occurred in November 1940 during World War II. The battle resulted in the Free French Forces taking the colony of Gabon and its capital, Libreville, from Vichy French forces.

The Pineton de Chambrun is a French aristocratic family, of which several members have taken an important part in French politics. Their nobility was proven in 1491. The Pineton de Chambrun originally come from the Gévaudan region, and many members were mayors or deputies of Lozère.

Malamine Camara Senegalese sergeant

Malamine Camara was a Senegalese sergeant in the French colonial army, and a key figure in the extension of French colonial rule in the Congo Basin.

Anziku Kingdom pre-colonial West Central African state of modern Republic of Congo

The Anziku Kingdom, also called the Teke Kingdom, the Tyo Kingdom or Tio Kingdom, was a pre-colonial West Central African state of modern Republic of Congo.

Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum building in Ghana

The Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and memorial park is located in downtown Accra, the capital of Ghana.

Republic of the Congo republic in Central Africa

The Republic of the Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville, the Congo Republic or simply the Congo, is a country located in the western coast of Central Africa. It is bordered by five countries: Gabon to its west; Cameroon to its northwest and the Central African Republic to its northeast; the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the southeast and the Angolan exclave of Cabinda to its south; and the Atlantic Ocean to its southwest.

Republic of the Congo–France relations Diplomatic relations between Republic of the Congo and the French Republic

Franco–Congolese relations refers to the current and historical relationship between the French Republic and the Republic of the Congo. France maintains an embassy in Brazzaville and a consulate in Pointe Noire. France controlled the Republic of the Congo as a colony from the 1880s until the Congo's independence in 1960. Following the collapse of communism worldwide, France has become Congo's most significant external trading partner.

Media of the Republic of the Congo are severely restricted by many factors, including widespread illiteracy and economic underdevelopment.

Fortuné Charles de Chavannes, born 19 May 1853 in Lyon and died 7 February 1940 in Antibes, was a French colonial administrator. He accompanied Savorgnan de Brazza on the Mission de l'Ouest africain from 1883 to 1886, and participated in the exploration and establishment of French Congo.

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo.

Paul Bourdarie

Paul Bourdarie was a French explorer, journalist, lecturer and professor. He became known as a specialist in colonial topics and gave lectures on subjects such as growing cotton and domesticating African elephants. He believed in a liberal policy regarding the indigenous people of the French colonies. Bourdarie was one of those responsible for founding the Grand Mosque of Paris.