Out of India: reinstating the empire in the periphery. Fluid Portuguese powers in different Asian political contexts from the Persian Gulf to Japan (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries)

Manuel Lobato (Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical)
João Teles e Cunha (Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa)
Prof. João Teles e Cunha
Dr Manuel Lobato
Sala 38, Piso 0
Wednesday 17 July, 14:00-15:45, Thursday 18 July, 9:30-11:15

Short abstract:

Refusing the concept of a single and homogeneous Portuguese power in Asia, the panel will revisit some Crown's Portuguese strongholds and hubs founded by private initiative focusing in the strategies defined by Asian polities vis-à-vis the local Portuguese-Asian communities and the missionaries

Long abstract:

The nineteenth century concept of a unique and homogeneous Portuguese power in Asia, followed by some historians until the late 1970s, has since been abandoned. Modern research has pointed out Portugal's imperial reinstatement in Asia since the mid-sixteenth century through new 'Portuguese' settlements, due to private initiative, along with the official presence. A cluster of ports and cities emerged in the Persian Gulf, the Bay of Bengal, Southeast Asia and the Far East, embedded in major Asian states and facing specific problems, though eventually they joined the Estado da Índia official network. The panel intends to revisit some of these Portuguese hubs, piecing together the political strategies defined by Asian polities regarding the local Portuguese-Asian communities, including missionaries, and their diplomatic exchanges with the Estado da Índia. Whether informal networks were a way of improvising empire, the panel highlights the role played by local private initiative in fuelling the Portuguese imperial dynamic in Asia. In this context, the panel aims to address the topic of the growing Portuguese discourse on chimerical conquests in contrast with the increasing accommodation of these Portuguese-Asian communities with the neighbouring Asian powers, on which they depended to survive. It will be discussed if the Asian authorities cooperated broadly with the Portuguese or if they only backed some local individuals and groups and opposed others, as the missionaries. Particular attention will be paid to whether these relations matched old social, political and commercial practices or, instead, inaugurated new forms of partnership and hindrance, as in Japan.