Academic journal article History In Africa

Inquisition Records from Goa as Sources for the Study of Slavery in the Eastern Domains of the Portuguese Empire

Academic journal article History In Africa

Inquisition Records from Goa as Sources for the Study of Slavery in the Eastern Domains of the Portuguese Empire

Article excerpt

Abstract: Goan inquisition case summaries from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries provide invaluable information about African and Asian slaves in the Estado da Índia, the eastern domains of the Portuguese Empire stretching from southern Africa to China. As most of the full trial records have been destroyed, the case summaries fill a crucial gap. The summaries also provide context for extant Goan trials. This article discusses the methodological challenges of using these records.

Résumé: Les résumés des procès de l'Inquisition de Goa du XVIe siècle et du XVIIe siècle fournissent des informations précieuses sur les esclaves africains et asiatiques de l'Estado da Índia, la partie orientale de l'empire portugais s'étendant du sud de l'Afrique à la Chine. Étant donné que les dossiers complets de jugements ont été détruits, les résumés de ces procès comblent une lacune cruciale. Ces résumés donnent aussi le contexte dans lequel se sont déroulés les procès à Goa à la même époque. Cet article adresse donc le défi méthodologique d'utiliser de tels documents.

Introduction1

Historians of slavery in the Atlantic World have increasingly turned to Portuguese inquisition records to examine the cultural and social lives of slaves.2 A wealth of material for such research exists in the form of prosecutors' notebooks and full inquisition trials. The trials have come from tribunals in Portugal - that is, Lisbon, Coimbra, and Évora. Yet for scholars interested in slaves coming from the Swahili coast and the Horn of Africa, the Goa Tribunal produced records that are of interest. Most of the cases are no longer extant; however, Goan inquisition case summaries of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century trials provide invaluable information about African and Asian slaves in the Estado da Índia, the eastern domains of the Portuguese Empire stretching from southern Africa to China. The Goa Tribunal, Portugal's only overseas inquisitorial tribunal, had jurisdiction over the entire Estado da Índia. Between 1560 and 1623, the Goa Tribunal handled 3,800 trials, which were summarized in João Delgado Figueira's Reportorio, now housed in the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal in Lisbon.3 Figueira was the fourteenth inquisitor of the Goa Tribunal.4 As the bulk of the full trial records have been destroyed, these case summaries fill a crucial gap. The summaries also provide context for the extant Goan trials. This article examines the methodological challenges of using such summaries. The case summaries silenced the multiple voices that shaped the original trial records, imposed a narrative that covered the contested nature of the cases, hid the lengthy process that characterized the trials, applied categories that obscured the complexity within the cases, and provided incomplete data. However, despite these limitations, the case summaries enable historians to glean information on slave trade routes, the diversity of the slave population, and the heterogeneity of the African (free and enslaved) population in the Estado da Índia. The summaries also highlight the existence of multiple forms of unfree labor and provide a glimpse at slaves' religious choices. The following discussion stems from my observations from analyzing ten inquisition cases and a sample of 2,254 case summaries from Figueira's Reportorio.5

The Source

The Reportorio's case summaries emanated from trials coming from multiple places in the Estado da Índia. Included are trials held in Goa, as well as cases decided in inquisitorial visits to Ormuz, Cochim (the South), and the Province of the North (Agaçaim, Baçaim, Taná, Bandorá, Mazagão, Mombaim, and Chaul).6 In addition, cases decided by commissioners in Chaul, Malacca, Meliapor, and Mozambique are included.7

The case summaries consist of the defendant's name, the inquisitorial crime, free(d) or slave status (when applicable), religious background, geographical place of residence, place of birth, ethnic identity, gender, marital status, occupation, abjuration details (the date, place, and the level of suspicion of guilt), family details (name of spouse if married along with the names of the defendant's parents), and sentence. …

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