The First Portuguese Colonial Empire

By Malyn Newitt | Go to book overview

Prince Henry and the Origins of
Portuguese Expansion

MALYN NEWITT


Introduction

It may seem superfluous to write yet another article about the origins of the Portuguese overseas empire. This is one of the most frequently discussed historical topics and, after so much controversy, it might seem that there is nothing new that can possibly be said about it. Yet although scarcely a year passes without some publication in English dealing with this subject, many of the most important ideas relating to it are either inaccessibly hidden away in minor publications or have never been made comprehensibly available in English. The object of this article, therefore, is to look at some of the issues that have preoccupied historians of this period but which have not been fully discussed in English publications.

'Tramping in its own footsteps, without ever leaving the closed circle, the ox tirelessly turns the waterwheel … so with the history of the discoveries, the same problems posed and reposed, the same theses indefatigably re-examined from the same point of view'.(1) In this way Vitorino Magalha?s Godinho started his survey of the literature of the discoveries. He was referring to the seemingly endless publications of the school of historians which has concerned itself almost exclusively with the 'facts' of the period. These historians have painstakingly sought to establish the chronology of the voyages and have often seemed to confine the study of their history to answering the apparently fascinating question, 'who discovered what first?'. The intriguing nature of the detective work clearly lies in the fact that the record of early European expansion is very meagre indeed and clues are often tantalisingly inconclusive. Nevertheless over the years the work of this school has led to basic agreement on the chronology of Portuguese expansion and it seems sensible to begin by summarising this as it is more or less the only point of real agreement among opposing factions of historians.

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The First Portuguese Colonial Empire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgements *
  • Introduction 1
  • Prince Henry and the Origins of Portuguese Expansion 9
  • The Estado Da India in Southeast Asia 37
  • Trade in the Indian Ocean and the Portuguese System of Cartazes 69
  • Goa in the Seventeenth Century 85
  • Bibliographical Notes 99
  • Biographical Notes 103
  • Exeter Studies in History 105
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