The First Portuguese Colonial Empire

The First Portuguese Colonial Empire

The First Portuguese Colonial Empire

The First Portuguese Colonial Empire

Synopsis

The four essays in this book examine aspects of Portugal's first overseas empire, the maritime and commercial empire that was founded in the fifteenth century and which, during the sixteenth century extended from Brazil to China.

Contributions by Anthony Disney, K. S. Mathew, Malyn Newitt and John Villiers

Excerpt

It is usual today to think of Portugal as having had three distinct phases In her imperial history. The 'first empire" was founded in 1415, developing as a maritime, commercial enterprise in Africa and Asia. The 'second empire' was an Atlantic one based on slaves, sugar and gold in which Angola and Brazil were the major partners. It lasted until Brazil became independent in 1825. The 'third empire' was that founded in Africa at the time of the 'scramble", which survived until the Portuguese Revolution of 1974. This collection of essays deals with the first phase of Portuguese imperial history.

The English-speaking student approaching the topic of Iberian expansion finds an astonishing contrast in the quality and quantity of the literature available. The overseas empire of Spain in the sixteenth century is the subject of a vast literature in English and interest in, and debate about it, has been considerable from the time of Queen Elizabeth to the present. Information about the Portuguese empire is much more sketchy. There are few good biographies of the leading personalities and even fewer good outlines of the development of the empire. In part this is due to the fact that the Portuguese possessions were widely scattered throughout the world with each of its regions becoming a separate field of activity. A coherent narrative of the development of the empire, therefore, becomes nearly impossible and has defeated all those who have tried to produce one. Instead a number of detailed monographs exist, reflecting the specialist area of interest of the writers. The areas best served by these monographs are China, Japan, East and West Africa and Brazil. In general the seventeenth century, the century of decline, is better covered than the sixteenth, the century of growth. Huge gaps exist in the literature. Southeast Asia is very poorly covered, and the history of the Persian Gulf and Sri Lanka in the sixteenth century is a virtual blank. However, the biggest gap of all is India. Although two of the writers . . .

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