The Portuguese historian of Mozambique, Alexandre Lobato, has referred to the 'arms and powder, which guaranteed an overwhelming military superiority' in the Zambezi hinterland, 1 but a rapid survey of the evidence most easily available would suggest that, until the introduction of the maxim gun, the use of firearms seldom, if ever, constituted a decisive military advantage in Central Africa. Guns might sometimes decide the fate of battles, but by themselves they were insufficient to win a campaign. Yet cannon and muskets were undoubtedly the most valuable, and probably the most envied, commodity possessed by the Portuguese on the Zambezi, and the political and commercial role of firearms may well have been quite considerable.