Just before midnight on 10 November 1975 Portugal's high commissioner in Angola, along with the last remnants of the Portuguese army in Africa, embarked for Lisbon. Earlier in the day he had formally transferred sovereignty not to a successor government but to ‘the Angolan people’, a formulation which permitted Portugal to ‘decolonise’ without taking sides in the civil war which was at that time reaching its climax in Angola. Immediately the perfunctory ceremony in Luanda ended, the Portuguese officials left at speed for the harbour and the relative safety of their ships which departed immediately. Thus ended Portugal's 500-year empire in Africa. It is tempting to see Portugal's indecorous withdrawal from Angola as an emblematic climax to an increasingly destructive relationship with the former jewel in its African crown. In this view, the chaotic circumstances of Angola's road to independence had brought Portugal's own fragile and unstable post-revolutionary state to the point of destruction. Yet a quite different view can be proposed. The political and diplomatic challenges thrown down by the Angolan crisis might be seen, on the contrary, to have had a ‘disciplining’ effect on a revolutionary process in Portugal which was threatening to spin out of control as a result of its own internal pressures. Arguably, rather than exacerbating these pressures, the demands of events in Angola had a unifying effect on an otherwise fragmenting state.