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date: 07 March 2021

The Portuguese Estado da Índia (Empire in Asia)free

  • Zoltán BiedermannZoltán BiedermannUniversity College London Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies


The origins of the Portuguese Estado da Índia—the sum of all Portuguese Crown possessions east of the Cape of Good Hope—can be traced back to the late 1400s, most importantly to the inaugural voyage of Vasco da Gama from Lisbon to Calicut (Kozhikode) in 1497–1498. After some initial hesitations, the Portuguese Crown created a governorship for India in 1505, with a seat at Cochin (Kochi) later transferred to Goa, to oversee commercial, military, administrative, and other activities in an increasing number of possessions along the shores of East Africa and Maritime Asia. Portuguese trading posts (feitorias), forts, and fortified towns across the region resulted from conquest or, more frequently, from negotiated agreements with local rulers, on whose cooperation the Portuguese generally relied. The Estado reached its apex in the second half of the 16th century, drawing vast resources from trade around the Cape and within Asian and African waters, while investing increasingly in military and religious campaigns in a variety of regions from southeastern Africa to the Moluccas (Malukus) and Japan. Despite significant losses to the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the English East India Company (EIC) during the 17th century, the Estado survived until the 20th century. Goa became a part of the Indian Union in 1961, and Macao integrated into the People’s Republic of China in 1999. The perceived decadence of the Estado during much of its history is at odds with its longevity and has prompted longstanding debates about the nature of Portuguese power in Asia; its reliance on trade, military might, and imperial ideas; and its intertwinement with Asian polities and societies.

Foundations of the Portuguese Empire in Asia

Portuguese activities in Asia began in 1487–1489 with the officially sanctioned but barely documented information-gathering mission that took Pero da Covilhã through the Mediterranean to Aden, and from there possibly to Calicut (Kozhikode), Cannanore (Kannur), Goa, and Hormuz (Hurmuz). Simultaneously, a fleet commanded by Bartolomeu Dias reached the Indian Ocean coast of modern South Africa for the first time. These activities were followed by the better-known voyage of a fleet commanded by Vasco da Gama from Lisbon to Calicut, in 1497–1499.1 The earliest documented interactions on the Indian littoral, from May 1498 onward, point to a pattern, already patent earlier in Africa, where competing local elites either sided with or turned against the newcomers. Following the tepid, in part hostile reception of Gama in Calicut, a more constructive dialogue emerged further South at Cochin (Kochi), in 1500, under the command of Pedro Álvares Cabral. Here the local ruling elite chose to seek an alliance with the Portuguese, precisely to counter the regional hegemony of Calicut. Comparable, albeit not always identical, processes occurred in other regions, including southern Arabia, the Persian Gulf, Gujarat, Sri Lanka, the Strait of Malacca (Melaka), and the Moluccas (Malukus). Local and regional interest in the Portuguese as military and commercial agents explains, partly at least, the quick establishment and long-term survival of often very small trading communities and garrisons at a distance of six to eighteen months of oceanic travel from Lisbon. The Portuguese thus got involved in local and regional power struggles, to which they were often summoned independently of their own ambitions to exert power in Asia. While historians have asked to what extent the Portuguese expanded through Maritime Asia on grounds of commercial, political, or rather religious interests, much of the Estado’s history suggests that a combination of factors tended to be at work, rather than a single one. On the Portuguese side, policies were often characterized by tensions between a markedly militaristic (often also religiously intolerant) approach, contrasting with a more pragmatic attitude favoring free trade.2 From the Crown’s perspective, Portugal held an imperial mandate to subjugate rulers across the eastern hemisphere as established in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. In reality, Portuguese policy in Asia depended heavily on Asian political and commercial power dynamics, often more than on empire-building impulses emanating from Iberia.3

The Establishment of a Maritime Empire in Asia

The constellation of Portuguese possessions in Asia developed somewhat haphazardly in the early years.4 During the first decade following the inaugural voyage of Vasco da Gama, various projects for the creation of a network of outposts in the Arabian Sea succeeded each other. Cochin (feitoria from 1501, fort from 1503) and Cannanore (feitoria from 1501, fort from 1505) were early official hubs for Portuguese activities in India. Cochin also hosted a powerful community of European-born traders increasingly at odds with the Portuguese Crown’s agents and official policy. In East Africa, intensely connected with the Asian markets at the time, Mozambique (first contact 1498, feitoria and fort from 1507) and Malindi (first contact 1498, feitoria from 1500 or 1502) played comparable strategic roles as Cochin but with a less prosperous private trade. Portuguese armadas roamed the Arabian Sea on a permanent basis from 1500, causing substantial damage to the existing maritime trading networks connecting India and the Far East with the Middle East, dominated by Muslim groups including the Kerala-based Mappilas.

In 1505, against the backdrop of mounting tensions, the Portuguese Crown created the post of viceroy of India, inspired by a Spanish institutional model originally pioneered by the Crown of Aragon in Sardinia. Francisco de Almeida, leader of the fifth armada dispatched from Lisbon to the Indian Ocean, received permission to take the title of viceroy once he had established forts, or fortified existing trading posts, at Kilwa, Angediva, Cochin, and Cannanore in 1505–1506. This was the earliest constellation of outposts seen as embodying a state-like presence in Asia. At the heart of the new construct was the notion that Portuguese Crown officials would collect tribute and taxes in Asian and African ports, while a permanent fleet would patrol the seas and impose further restrictions on the existing regional trade. A position was also established on the island of Soqotra (1507) but, as that of Angediva, soon again abandoned, as it proved of little value.

The structural backbone of the Estado, as it then came to support Portuguese maritime dominance in the region up to the mid-17th century, resulted from the activities of the second governor of India, Afonso de Albuquerque (1509–1515; all viceroys were governors, but not vice versa).5 Albuquerque recognized the key value of outposts situated in strategic locations, allowing for a wider control of trade along the principal east-west axis of Maritime Asia. The conquest of Hormuz (1507, followed by a second intervention in 1515), Goa (1510), and Malacca (1511), as well as the failed attempt to conquer Aden (1513) and an equally unsuccessful attempt at reaching out diplomatically to Beijing (1513), all reflect the nascent Estado’s ambition to play a dominant and permanent role in Asian maritime long-distance trade along its main east-west axis. Over the following decades, further positions were added to the Estado, albeit in sometimes haphazard ways, and with occasional setbacks. For example, a fort existed at Colombo in Sri Lanka from 1518 to 1524, and then again from 1551 to 1656. In 1530, the governor Nuno da Cunha (1529–1538) shifted the capital of the Estado from Cochin to Goa, a port thriving on the trade of horses from Persia and Arabia to the Deccan and South India. A number of positions were added along the western Indian littoral, including a territory stretching northward from modern Mumbai (see the section “Resilience and Terrestrial Presence of the Empire”). When the Empire of Vijayanagara imploded after 1565, the Estado reacted with confidence, adding further positions on the Malabar Coast (most importantly, Mangalore in 1568) while resisting pressures from the Deccan sultanates and the Mughal Empire further north. Official outposts also appeared in mainland and insular Southeast Asia (most importantly, in the Moluccas, from the 1510s onward), with informal trading posts and communities developing in southern China (from the 1530s) and Japan (after 1543). The Portuguese presence in southern China was regulated, through a concessionary model where Portuguese rights were strictly limited by the Chinese authorities, with the creation of Macao (c. 1554).

The complex nature of Portuguese expansion through Asia poses important interpretive challenges for historians. There is no agreement about whether the very designation as “empire” is suitable. Historians have resorted to images and metaphors including the Portuguese presence in Asia as a “network” (Luís Filipe Thomaz, in dialogue with Denys Lombard who applied the same concept to Southeast Asia), as a “nebula of power” (Francisco Bethencourt), or as a “prism” (Thomaz in his 2018 work).6 Anthony Disney lists four alternative “images” of the Estado and its dependencies: “empire,” “network,” “frontier,” and “constructed map.”7 The growing consensus is that such a variety of terms reflects the de facto complexity of power structures in the East and the historical lack of a unifying principle.

Decadence and Survival of the Portuguese Empire in Asia

The Portuguese were the only Europeans to navigate the Indian Ocean for much of the 16th century. Spanish intrusions from the Pacific were followed by Dutch, English, and other challenges to the Portuguese monopoly of the Cape route. The most significant early loss of a fortified position occurred at Hormuz, which fell to an Anglo-Persian alliance in 1622. A subsequent wave of defeats resulted from the increasingly aggressive and effective stance of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) which, having first ventured into Asian waters in 1602 and established its base in Java, began to exert pressure on Portuguese positions in India and Sri Lanka during the 1630s. A naval blockade of Goa (from 1636) and the loss of Malacca (1641) were followed by capitulations at Colombo (1656), Mannar and Jaffna (1658), Kollam (1661), Cranganore (1661), Cannanore (1663), and Cochin (1663). Other communities fell victim to the mounting confidence of Asian and African rulers, most notably the garrison at Mombasa (1631) and the informal Portuguese settlement of Hughli in the Ganges delta (1632). The Moluccas, where the Portuguese faced problems since the late 16th century, were definitively abandoned in the 1660s. While the Portuguese Crown prevailed against Dutch competition in the Atlantic, mainly in Brazil, most of its key operations in the Indian Ocean were lost by the late 17th century.8

During the late 17th and 18th centuries, Portuguese positions at Goa, Bassein, Daman, and Diu also came under increasing pressure from Asian powers, namely the Marathas on the land and the Omanis on the sea. Bombaim (Mumbai) was transferred, albeit with hesitations, to British rule as part of a wider Anglo-Portuguese alliance taking shape in the late 1600s. In 1739 the Província do Norte, a stretch of agricultural lands extending north from Bassein, was lost to the Marathas. Nevertheless, the Estado as such survived, with a reduced footprint, comprising possessions from Mozambique to Macao and East Timor—a territory where the Portuguese had traded from the early 16th century. In 1752, the East African outposts were separated from the Estado as part of the political reforms undertaken in Portugal by Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, better known as the Marquis of Pombal. During the same period, however, the mainland area controlled by the Portuguese around Goa tripled. In 1843, the capital of the remaining Estado shifted to New Goa, commonly known as Panaji, where the viceroys had taken up residence around 1759 already. In 1844, Macao and Timor were detached from the Estado, leaving it limited to its possessions on the Indian littoral. A program of modernization began, including the development of important medical, pharmaceutical, and engineering schools, later forming part of the University of Goa, and a widening program of colonial science.9 During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, increasing numbers of educated Goans left for Bombay, and later the United Kingdom, reflecting a perceived lack of economic and cultural development in the Estado. After the independence of India from British rule in 1947, Portugal came under increasing pressure to abandon its remaining possessions in the subcontinent. As the authoritarian Salazar regime of the Portuguese Estado Novo refused to negotiate a transition, the Indian Union invaded Goa, Daman, and Diu in 1961. Portugal recognized its losses to India after the fall of Salazar’s regime in 1974. East Timor fell to Indonesia in 1975, and Macao was handed over to the Chinese authorities in 1999.

Resilience and Terrestrial Presence of the Empire

The longevity of the Portuguese presence in Asia poses significant explanatory challenges. Geographically, the Estado straddled many different political and economic areas, exposing itself to constant instability but also gaining strength from the need to cooperate with local powers and adapt. Losses in one region could be offset by gains in others. A hybrid reliance on maritime and terrestrial revenues produced additional resilience. On the seas, the Portuguese gained leverage early on through looting and privateering, especially against Muslim-owned operations. Official positions in seaports then gave the Portuguese the ability to tax Asian trade, often at somewhat higher rates than was usual in the region. Most importantly, however, the Estado and its subjects prospered by actively taking part in Asian trade, which soon proved more profitable than the Cape Route itself. Generally speaking, it can be stated that the Portuguese were more interested in controlling the flow of commodities than their production in Asia.10

This said, the Estado did build a territorial basis and made some consequential attempts at projecting power inland. The territorialization of the Estado remains, nevertheless, a deficiently studied subject. In the 1530s already, the Goan elite gained control over the Província do Norte, a stretch of land roughly 100 km is about 60 miles, and 30 km is about 20 miles wide to the north of Bombaim, drawing significant agrarian revenues under circumstances still poorly understood. In the 1540s, Goa itself expanded through the conquest of lands in the areas of Bardez and Salsete. In the 1570s, plans were mooted to reach deep into East Africa to control the production of gold needed for the Asian markets, signaling a resurgence in ideas of military conquest, partly inspired by the successful Spanish silver mining operations at Potosí, in South America. During the same period, Spanish activities in the Philippines (officially annexed to the Catholic monarchy of Phillip II in 1565) inspired the formulation of plans for the conquest of vast terrestrial areas in China and Southeast Asia, in which some Portuguese hoped to participate after the Union of Crowns of 1581.11 From the 1590s, the Estado invested significant resources in attempts at conquering Sri Lanka, which became the largest territorial possession in Asia during the 17th century.

To what extent such activities were in connection with the establishment of a territorial basis in Brazil from the middle of the 16th century is far from clear, although it seems plausible to assume that a terrestrial presence resulted in a welcome diversification of revenue sources anywhere, both in the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.12 Later conquests around Goa in the 18th century can be explained more straightforwardly as responses to strategic pressures both on the sea and on the land; they provided food-producing areas that could serve as military buffer zones. Overall, however, the Estado, ever struggling with a lack of human and material resources, never went through a process of territorialization as pronounced as that experienced by the English East India Company (EIC) in 18th- and 19th-century India. The most clearly comparable case is that of the Dutch VOC, which went through a similar process of establishing a maritime network followed by attempts, fueled in complex ways by local power groups, at conquering limited territories close to the maritime shores of South and Southeast Asia.

The Estado as a Diplomatic Network

A key factor in the Estado’s rise and resilience was diplomacy.13 The early failure at Calicut in 1498 forced the Portuguese onto a steep learning curve, as they established alliances and outposts across the Indian Ocean region. In the smaller polities of the Swahili Coast, Kerala, Sri Lanka, and the Malay-speaking world, the Portuguese swiftly learned the rules of diplomacy as it had blossomed before their arrival, and in particular the importance of gifting, tributary exchanges, and the respect of courtly ceremonial. Afonso de Albuquerque, a trained soldier and courtier, showed, despite some hesitations, remarkable skill and a willingness to adapt. In comparison to the earliest interactions, during which the Portuguese had shown little appreciation for the need to offer valuable gifts, the Albuquerque years (1509-15) brought a deepened understanding of the need for such gestures to accompany verbal and written communications. The legal and symbolic aspects inherent to the figure of the viceroy or governor, formally an alter ego of the distant Portuguese monarch, were key to the development of diplomacy in the East. At a lower level, each individual captain of a fortress, often wielding considerable autonomous power at a distance from Lisbon and Goa, could also act to receive and dispatch diplomatic emissaries, and occasionally full-blown embassies. Only rarely did viceroys or governors travel extensively through the Estado. All this should not obscure the fact that diplomacy was always conducted against the backdrop of contained violence, punctuated by often extreme outbursts of military activity causing death and destruction among Asian and African populations.

Diplomacy as a material and symbolic practice helped represent and shape power relations that were otherwise difficult to put into words in a multilingual and multicultural political environment. In principle, the Portuguese either operated in “friendship” (amizade) with Asian rulers, or labored to treat them as “vassals” (vassalos).14 While accepting the superiority of Asian rulers and thus paying tribute to them was rejected in principle, power relations could be represented diplomatically with sufficient ambiguity as to blur the categories. Diplomacy, along with military operations and threats of violence, also contributed to the making and the consolidating of new power constellations. In a number of instances, Portuguese positions resulted directly from manifestations of military might combined with diplomatic negotiations, for example the concession of Diu in 1535. More frequently than not, diplomatic contacts and proximity resulted from the agency of Asian rulers who followed established traditions of inter-polity competition and cooperation. After the Portuguese conquered Hormuz and Malacca, for example, they inherited the complex diplomatic networks of the polities they had occupied, including all rights and obligations. In the Persian Gulf, a number of smaller polities kept acknowledging the centrality and superiority of the rulers of Hormuz. A similar system existed at Malacca, with ramifications across the Straits. Both cities were also expected by neighboring imperial powers, namely Persia and Siam, to fit into the existing regional power structures as smoothly as possible, independently of the Portuguese takeovers. In general, Portuguese diplomacy across Asia thus had to adapt to existing material and symbolic conditions and regimes of value.15

The range in terms of diplomatic praxis in Beijing, Agra, or Tabriz as opposed to smaller political centers with a less rigid court etiquette was significant. While problems occurred, broadly speaking Portuguese diplomacy in Asia functioned because of the willingness of the Estado’s agents to adapt to local political practices even under the varnish of Iberian imperial superiority. On the one hand, the Estado accepted tributary payments in kind (for example, cinnamon and elephants in Sri Lanka, previously destined to other overlords in South India), thus imposing itself but also participating in local political and commercial practices. On the other hand, it seems to have learned to offer gifts deemed valuable enough by Asian princes in diplomatic contexts, thus sometimes accepting the hierarchical superiority of the rulers of larger empires. During its heyday, the Estado would receive dozens of diplomatic missions from Asian powers every year, both at Goa and in its other possessions, facilitating a flow of people, objects, and ideas that remains largely unstudied. Diplomacy helped keep the Estado afloat through times of crisis down to the mid-20th century, when the dialogue with the Indian Union broke down.

Economic Foundations of the Empire

Economically, the Estado saw constant tensions between competing, and sometimes outright antagonistic, groups of interest. From the earliest years of the 16th century, the Crown’s administrative, military, and judicial apparatus with its salaried officials was in competition with independent trading agents. It has been argued forcefully that much of the Crown’s policy in the East during the 16th century resulted from tensions at the royal court between “militarists” backing a state-controlled trade to support a muscular military presence, on the one hand, and “commercialists” interested in furthering free trade on the other hand.16 In practice, these were not two firmly structured factions, but rather two options between which individuals or larger family networks could position themselves according to their momentary interests. The full spectrum of tensions cannot be directly mapped onto the binary scheme of militarists versus commercialists, because attitudes varied with regard to cooperating or not with Muslim traders; investing or not in official fortified positions in Asia; concentrating on one or another geographical area in particular, for example Gujarat versus Kerala, or the Arabian Sea versus the South China Sea; and keeping strong links with Lisbon (and later also Madrid, despite the formal separation of the two halves of the Iberian Union of Crowns of 1581–1640) or not.

The volume and value of Portuguese trade with and within Asia is notoriously difficult to establish through the patchy historical record.17 The first large cargo of spices to have been shipped around the Cape arrived in Lisbon in 1503. At about thirty thousand quintals it may have superseded the annual amount imported by Venice through Egypt, and it certainly gave rise to concerns along the traditional route. In Portugal, spices sent on the Cape route, most importantly pepper but also cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger, were seen as part of a Crown monopoly on Asian trade and went through a regulated process of purchase, weight, and quality control by Crown officials in Asia, as well as rigorous monitoring upon arrival in Lisbon, where all goods were forced to pass the Casa da Índia, or India Office, located on the ground floor of the royal palace known as Paço da Ribeira. There, imports would be taxed or, for the Crown’s own share, processed for sale to the European markets through an official trading post (feitoria) at Antwerp. After the closing of the latter in 1548, most spices were sold directly in Lisbon. Despite some interruptions and experimentation with various sub-contracting models, the Crown monopoly remained in place as a principle – complicated in practice by the frequent flouting of rules – throughout much of the early modern period.18

Following the shock of the early 1500s, the balance between the Cape route and the older Middle Eastern routes seems to have been re-established to some extent. By the 1520s and throughout much of the remaining period, large amounts of spices—especially pepper from Aceh, but also cinnamon from Sri Lanka, nutmeg and cloves from the Malukus, and many other valuable products—flowed through the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf again, sometimes with an active, albeit illegal, involvement of Portuguese traders. This said, much of the latter flow was destined for the Middle East itself. Some research suggests that, on grounds of their grip on the Cape route, the Portuguese may have controlled as much as 75 percent of Europe’s spice imports up to the end of the 16th century, when Dutch and English competition inflicted lasting damage their trading capabilities.19 Figures are bound to evolve as further research is undertaken into archives across Europe.

Both in terms of volume and of value, trade within the region going from Mozambique to Japan—what the British later called the “country trade”—soon superseded the shipping cargoes going to the Atlantic. During the early years, officially sanctioned plunder, especially through corsair activities against Muslim-owned operations across the Indian Ocean, was widespread and furnished the Estado much-needed resources for its own consolidation. This type of activity only lost importance gradually. The Estado also drew increasing official profits from participating directly in the intra-Asian trade. Initially, this was done through a network of Crown-controlled trading posts (feitorias at Goa, Cochin, Diu, Hurmuz, Melaka, and Ternate in the Moluccas). As this often proved ineffective and unpopular, the Crown experimented with more flexible arrangements.20 The carreiras system thus saw the Crown monopoly imposed on key Asian routes with royal ships, but allowing private traders to use cargo space on board. In the second half of the 16th century, the Estado moved toward the annual concession of key routes (known as “voyages” or viagens) to officials in charge of a fortress (e.g., the captains of Malacca/Melaka) or private individuals (often to reward previous services to the Crown). The value of these voyages was only diminished by external interference from other Europeans in the 17th century, or events such as the expulsion of the Portuguese from Japan in 1639. Even under difficult circumstances, Portuguese maritime trade remained remarkably resilient, especially in the Bay of Bengal and in East Asia.21

A third way of drawing income from trade was the collection of taxes. This could be done either by taxing navigation as such, through the sale of so-called cartazes, safe-conducts issued on the understanding that the Portuguese Crown was a hegemon of the seas; or it could be achieved through taxes collected in key ports. The Estado thus operated a lucrative web of customs houses (alfândegas) including Goa, Hormuz, Malacca, Bassein, and Diu. In the 1580s, customs revenues amounted to over three-quarters of the Estado’s documented income. The loss of Hormuz and Malacca forced the surviving parts of the Estado to adapt, and much of this adaptation seems to have relied on a furthering of the shift to private enterprise despite some Crown-sponsored attempts at reform.22

Administrative Structures of the Empire

In addition to the various different, often competing commercial and fiscal interests traversing the Estado, the range of the official administration’s tasks added further to the polity’s complexity and, at times, dysfunctionality. The appointment in 1505 of a viceroy was only the first step in the creation of a command structure aimed at dealing with an average turnaround time of eighteen months for fleets connecting Lisbon and Goa. Viceroys or governors (the title depended on individual social status; functionally they were identical) stood at the head of the Estado through its entire history, being responsible for five main areas of action: military (largely, but not exclusively, naval) matters, diplomacy, finance, trade, and the management of personnel.23 They often left a very personal imprint on the empire’s policies, political culture, and fiscal practices, which was not necessarily in agreement with guidelines sent from Portugal. A regulatory and judicial system needed to be set up to deal with irregularities and crimes that could not be referred back to Lisbon. The Crown thus nominated the first superintendent of the treasury (Vedor da Fazenda) in 1516, a post that was split into three separate areas of competency in 1545. The Crown also set up a high court (relação) in Goa in 1544 and operated a larger network of judges to cover at least the trading communities of the official possessions. Yet the boundaries between the military, the commercial administration, and the judiciary were often blurry, and numerous conflicts of authority arose.

Centrifugal forces hampered the ability of officials residing in Goa to shape the Estado. Since governors did not tend to travel widely in the region, captains appointed with geographically more limited mandates were often able to set the agenda and respond to locally emerging challenges. The captains of fortresses usually combined military and administrative functions. They received their posts either by donation (mercê), purchase, or inheritance, creating long waiting lists and nurturing an ethos aimed at short-term financial gain. Patronage over these posts, which were rarely held for more than two or three years, was often contested between Lisbon, Goa, and among competing factions. Tensions thus arose not just between Goa and other outposts but even within the viceregal council in Goa (Conselho de Estado) and the various relevant councils in Lisbon and later Madrid (during the Union of Crowns, 1581–1640). Attempts were also made to impose royal control, through the vedoria da fazenda, on the finances of some fortresses, but often to limited avail.

At the local level, captains often functioned as de facto representatives of the Crown and diplomatic interlocutors for Asian authorities, deciding over matters of war and peace. Military campaigns were often planned and carried out at this level, only vaguely in accordance with orders sent from Lisbon or Goa. Coordination also tended to be less than perfect between the captains and the most important representative body of local casados (married men, often formerly soldiers, heading households usually involved in private trade and sometimes owning agricultural land), the municipal councils (câmaras).24 The growth of their financial power, and their ability to appeal both to Lisbon and to their own aspirations to autonomy in the Iberian tradition of local governance, often pitched them against Crown-appointed officials, especially when it came to trade and the sharing of the costs of warfare. Relations were further complicated by the presence of secular church representatives and of members of various, also mutually competing, religious orders. Finally, large pockets of non-Christian populations maintaining some of their own laws and or administrative practices existed under Portuguese rule, namely in the village territories of Goa and the Província do Norte. While the early years were marked by a relatively peaceful coexistence, from the middle of the 16th century religious intolerance, including fiscal pressures to convert, confiscation of lands, and the destruction of temples, added fuel to existing tensions.25

Social Characteristics of the Empire

Socially, the Estado gave rise to a great variety of situations, without which the internal tensions of the system cannot be fully understood. After the end of Albuquerque’s governorship, Lopo Soares (1515–1518), a “commercialist” governor, allowed hundreds or possibly thousands of soldiers serving in Portuguese forts to leave and seek out opportunities beyond the modest possessions of the Portuguese Crown. An organic process of diaspora-formation begun earlier in the century was thus given a substantial boost, and a number of sizeable informal colonies began to spring up, for example at São Tomé de Meliapor (today part of Chennai) on the Coromandel Coast. While the Crown made repeated attempts over the centuries to control such colonies by dispatching military commanders and judges, or regulating social and commercial activities by sponsoring and then coopting municipal authorities, the informal communities kept much of their independence. Geographically, most were situated east of Cape Comorin, especially around the Bay of Bengal and in the South China Sea. As a whole, these informal colonies and the numerous individuals radiating from them into adjacent Asian polities have been designated as the “Shadow Empire.”26 It is important to emphasize how these communities relied, even more than the official outposts, on acceptance by Asian powers and on interactions with Asian societies.27 The constant movement of individuals attracted by commercial, military, and even political opportunities in states ranging from Safavid Persia, Mughal India, and Vijayanagar through Pegu, Siam, and Champa to China and Japan is one of the most remarkable, if not always well documented, historical particularities of Portuguese expansion. Portuguese men ended up in influential positions across Asia independently from any of the Estado’s activities, attesting once more to the powerful pull factors at play in early European “expansion.”28

Generally speaking, the Estado’s and the Shadow Empire’s populations were ethnically, culturally, and juridically complex. Portugal sent mostly men and only very few women to the East. For Portuguese-born men to found autonomous households in Asia, as many did (return rates to Portugal were overall much lower than among the English and Dutch), they needed to marry into local families. Successive generations of Portuguese subjects then kept intermarrying or absorbing wave after wave of men arriving from Portugal. Precise numbers are difficult to give, but as a rule of thumb, the Portuguese population of the Estado was in the thousands to tens of thousands rather than further up.29 While identities were not necessarily always fluid (boundary deactivation could easily be followed by reactivation), it is difficult to establish who exactly should be counted as “Portuguese.” Mixed marriages, against the backdrop of a complicated linguistic, social, and religious landscape, make it virtually impossible to say how many subjects exactly the Crown had in the East.30

Often tensions arose in the Estado’s possessions along fault lines that may seem counterintuitive to the modern reader. For example, tensions between married subjects (casados) and unmarried, usually poor, soldiers (soldados), both Portuguese in principle, were often more pronounced than between casados and non-Portuguese residents. In 17th-century Goa competition between Brahmins and Kshatriyas, both converted to Catholicism and using the Portuguese idiom to spread their narratives, was sometimes more intense than any sense of “Asianness” uniting them against the Portuguese. From 1542 all converts in Goa were officially treated as full subjects of the Portuguese Crown, theoretically erasing legal differences between colonizers and colonized (the decree was extended beyond Goa in 1571). In practice, access to many key posts in the administrative, judicial, military, and ecclesiastical hierarchy remained restricted to individuals born in Portugal (reinóis) or of direct Portuguese descent.31

Furthermore, an unspecified but significant proportion of the population of Portuguese-ruled ports in Asia was unfree, and the same can be said about Portuguese-led troops and Portuguese-run trading vessels across the region. Slavery and the trade in human beings were important in the societies surrounding the Indian Ocean. Various forms of limitation on the freedom of individuals coexisted among the Portuguese and most Asian societies, about which not enough is known so far. Following the early research of Ann Pescatello and Jeannette Pinto, and in contrast with the more recent work of Tatiana Seijas on the Pacific, little has been written about the fate of enslaved or partly unfree individuals and groups in the context of Portuguese Asia. Recent work with Dutch sources on regions formerly ruled by the Portuguese does, however, suggest that strong continuities existed, and that the study of such phenomena deserves further support.32

Missions and Conversions to Catholicism

Goa provided the most stable environment for the religious and cultural conversion of larger populations. Here, competing social groups, including castes, could adopt Portuguese mores and “mimic,” to some extent, Portuguese culture to secure an elevated status.33 Elsewhere, conversion rates were lower, and proselytization slower. Each “Portuguese” casado or settler household might contain a number of Asian individuals more or less recently converted. It would also be surrounded by sometimes overwhelmingly large, unconverted populations. These might include the full social spectrum, from lowly service providers or even enslaved persons through traders to nobles and royals. Some might be descendants of long-established local families seeking to hold on to their religion as long as possible; others could be exiles seeking baptism and refuge in the Portuguese possessions in the context of local power struggles. In such cases, the pedigree brought into the Estado might be accepted by the Portuguese population as equivalent to that of the Lusitanian nobility.

The main conversion process to consider is that of Asians adopting the Catholic faith, although religious conversions occurred in more than one direction, with Christians also “reneging” on their faith especially—but not inevitably—as they transited into the service of Asian rulers.34 Like Spain, Portugal carried a declared mandate to Christianize peoples across the globe, and the Portuguese Crown invested substantial resources in the financing of religious missions. While missionaries came from a range of European countries, they were obliged to pass through Lisbon and be vetted by Crown officials before embarking for the East. Both secular and regular clerics were involved in the empire, the main religious order to dispatch men to Asia in the early decades being the Franciscans. After initial hopes that Indians may already be Christian, the expedition of Cabral brought back news to Lisbon in 1501 that this was not the case. Nevertheless, Franciscan attitudes in the following decades show no particularly strong drive to work actively toward the conversion of Hindus and Buddhists. It may have been assumed, in line with certain millenarian ideas at play under Manuel I, that conversions would occur automatically, though the study of later Franciscan missions in Asia is in its infancy.

It is only from the late 1530s that the political atmosphere hardened, creating in the archival record an increasing sense of religious, confessional commitment relatable to contemporaneous processes unfolding in Europe. In terms of ecclesiastic structure, the Estado was initially a part of the diocese of Funchal in the Atlantic island of Madeira. Only in 1534 was a bishopric created at Goa, later transformed into an archdiocese and thus separated from the Province of Lisbon in 1557. The arrival of the first bishop to Goa at the end of the decade, followed by the dispatch of Franciscan friars of the Piedade province to convert the king of Kotte in Sri Lanka in 1542, were the first steps in this process. Almost immediately, however, the shift toward an ambitious, geographically and socially wide-ranging, Crown-sponsored proselytism became bound up with the rise of the Jesuits. Founded in Paris in 1534, the Society of Jesus was embraced by King John III even before it gained full approval in Rome. Following the initial activities of Francis Xavier, the Jesuits developed a vast missionary program, especially in India and in the Far East, while the Franciscans held on to their missions in Sri Lanka until around 1600 and the Augustinians and some Dominicans labored in the more hostile environments of Persia and East Africa. Ultimately, the geographical boundaries between the various religious orders became blurred, yet the methods employed varied vastly.

Even within the Society of Jesus, tensions abounded. Some Jesuits championed a comparatively open, culturally tolerational approach led by the principle of accommodatio (namely Roberto de’ Nobili in Madurai, and Matteo Ricci in China). They came to loggerheads with more conservative elements who saw the adoption of many aspects of Asian material and visual culture as heterodox and dangerous.35 Contrarily to a widespread trope, forced conversions were not deemed acceptable. Insidious tactics such as selective taxation were, however, used extensively to put pressure on people in the Crown possessions, for example the occupied lands around Goa, to take baptism. It was then assumed that the next generation, through catechization, would develop a stronger sense of belonging to the Catholic community than their parents. At times, children were also taken to Goa more or less forcefully from other regions to be educated in the Christian faith, and then returned to their places of origin to support the missionary effort. Furthermore, the Inquisition tribunal based at Goa labored for the control of converts’ behavior and intellectual world.36

Despite the existence of competing factions, the missionary apparatus functioning under the aegis of the Portuguese Crown’s mandate to oversee religious missions in Asia (padroado) proved a powerful influence on the development of the Estado. On the one hand, it reinforced a self-perception of the empire as representing not only a distant universal monarch but also a Catholic Church with a global mandate. Significant resources were poured into maintaining the missions along with magnificent church buildings in the Crown’s possession. Religious arguments also infiltrated the political discourse of the Estado especially from the 1540s onward, adding symbolic legitimacy to military projects when they could be religiously justified—and thus acting as a counterweight to enterprises that might be branded as “excessively” commercial.37 On the other hand, religious orders also got involved in trade. Most significantly, perhaps, they maintained a presence in areas where the Estado itself had none: Augustinian friars thus resided at Isfahan to serve as connectors between Goa, the Safavid realm, and the Armenian trading network in the region. Jesuits resided at Agra, serving in practice as permanent ambassadors to the Mughal court. Jesuits also built a large network of missions and churches in Japan, controlling diplomatic and commercial contacts between the archipelago and Macao until competition arose from Franciscans coming through the Spanish connection in the Pacific.

While conversions to Christianity were few in Islamic lands, hundreds of thousands of individuals converted in areas of South India, Sri Lanka, and Japan not held by the Estado. It has thus been argued that beyond the official empire and the “Shadow Empire,” though in close connection with both, a third imperial-based space of Portuguese influence arose through the work of the missionaries. This could have strategic implications, as was the case on the Fishery Coast of South India, where mass conversions under the Jesuits helped the Portuguese in their struggle against the established Muslim trading networks of the region. More generally, though, these Christian populations may not have played a decisive role in the survival of the Estado as a political structure. What they allowed for is the survival of the Catholic religion, certain aspects of Lusitanian or hybrid Luso-Asian culture, and the Portuguese or Luso-Asian creole languages. It has also been pointed out how the development of the Jesuit missions in Asia, while initially very distinct from those in Brazil, came in the 17th century to be connected with the latter in a new, global imaginaire.38

Legacies of the Empire

As the political fortunes of the Estado faded, other aspects of the Portuguese legacy survived. Although the role of Portuguese as a lingua franca across Maritime Asia may have been somewhat overstated (other such languages existed in parallel), it certainly played a role in binding together communities across Maritime Asia. Portuguese was also used as a language of diplomatic communication, and many materials written by Asian elites survive in Portuguese archives thanks to its widespread adoption. There is a case to argue that Portuguese became an Asian language in its own right. It also survived in settlements taken over by other European powers, with Dutch VOC personnel in particular prone to marrying into Lusophone families.39 In many places, Portuguese was used throughout the centuries and gradually inflected, going through a progressive Creolization while still being used for example in the creation of 19th-century print culture. Portuguese-based Creole languages and dialects survive today on the West coast of India, in and around Batticaloa on the East coast of Sri Lanka, and in Melakka in modern Malaysia. Portuguese itself is still used in Daman, Diu, Goa, East Timor, and Macao. Catholicism, sometimes with roots stretching back to the 16th century, but often indebted to later processes that remain poorly studied, is still associated in many Asian countries with the Portuguese.

The material legacy of the Estado is also significant, both in terms of constructions and destructions.40 Fortifications and churches tend to be the most visible structures. While the former are mostly limited to the official possessions of the Portuguese Crown, religious structures with roots in the early modern period abound, especially in South Asia, both in urban and rural environments. Examples of civil architecture based on Portuguese models can also be found, most visibly in Kerala.41 The developments of the 18th to 20th centuries in particular are deficiently known in the areas of religious and civil architecture. A careful examination of many cities reveals the survival to this day of urban structures such as streets, property parcels, and city walls going back to the “Portuguese period”. Contrary to what has been suggested mainly by historians of Dutch city planning, Portuguese urbanism in Asia was not inherently “chaotic.” Gridiron layouts existed, as well as other visually less expressive forms of urban organization along principal thoroughfares that survive to this day.42 Few archaeological surveys have been carried out, suggesting a vast potential for future research. On the other hand, the Portuguese also caused widespread destruction and loss. Numerous temples, especially in South India and Sri Lanka, fell victim to Portuguese warfare and, at times, conscious campaigns of religiously motivated annihilation. Instances of looting are also documented, suggesting that there may be issues to discuss today around the responsibility of the Portuguese state toward Asian nations. These themes remain almost entirely untouched by historians in Portugal but have given rise to polemics especially in Sri Lanka, where the looting and destroying of Buddhist and Hindu temples is widely remembered along with the killing and devastation caused by several decades of conquest warfare.

The Estado’s legacy also survives in the geographical and cartographical knowledge that was gradually developed over the centuries by European and Asian nations.43 For much of the 16th century, Portugal was at the forefront of scientific innovation, producing some of the most advanced astronomical, navigational, and cartographic techniques of the time. Maps in particular, often grounded both in direct observation and in dialogues with Asian informants, made knowledge about Asian geography available on a global scale. As is to be expected, knowledge production went hand in hand with political and military power-building processes. Maps thus testify to the violence of imperial expansion as well as to the scientific capabilities supported by the Estado. While most Portuguese cartographers, including at least one important workshop operating in Goa under Fernão Vaz Dourado, worked untouched by the print revolution, their artefacts were copied and integrated into the cartographic production of other European nations during the 17th century, thus forming the ground rock upon which most modern maps of Asia stood until the rise of satellite imaging. Even common geographical terms such as “South Asia” or the “Far East” are partly due to the labor of Portuguese geographers, who inherited the categories of Classical Greco-Roman literature and worked to map them onto the observed realities of early modern Asia.44 A vast geographical and ethnographical literature survives in Portuguese documenting the history of Asian states, religions, languages, fashions, and material cultures.45 Again, the local contributions to this body of knowledge are significant, suggesting a close intertwinement of Asian and European historical processes in the history of the Estado. Goa in particular will undoubtedly attract further attention as a major hub of knowledge-making both in the early modern and the modern period.

Discussion of the Literature

The earliest attempts at summarizing and interpreting the establishment of Portuguese power in Asia began three to four decades after the Vasco da Gama voyage. Among the mid-16th-century chronicles, the most significant is João de Barros’s Da Ásia (On Asia), commonly referred to as the Décadas (Decades) on grounds of its structure of one volume per decade of history. This project was continued in Goa by the archivist-chronicler Diogo do Couto into the early 17th century. Numerous other chronicles, including religious narratives, provide the chronological and narrative backbone of the Estado’s history to this day. The birth of modern historiography in the 19th century entailed the publication of additional archival materials with an emphasis on viceregal and other letters. As a consequence, political history has dominated the panorama, although liberal and left-leaning historians in the 20th century developed an interest in the economic motivations behind Portuguese expansion.

This became a highly politicized matter during the Portuguese Estado Novo era (1926–1974), when the regime led by António Salazar invested heavily in consolidating readings of expansion as a national endeavor built around an essentially idealistic agenda. To the regime, the Portuguese presence in Asia resulted from an imperial project with, at its heart, the perceived obligation to evangelize the world and an ability to mingle regardless of racial distinctions. In opposition to this, the social and economic historians António Sérgio, from the 1910s, and Vitorino Magalhães Godinho, from the 1950s onwards, laid the foundations for a critical appreciation of the material motivations of Portuguese expansion. Godinho worked on a major research project in Paris during the 1950s, in proximity to Fernand Braudel and the Annales school then based at the 6th section of the École Pratique des Hautes Études (from which the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales emerged in 1975). This resulted in a monumental oeuvre uncovering the material motivations underlying Portuguese expansion, and the economic logics of the Portuguese empire across the globe. The very suggestion that greed might have been a motor of expansion ran counter to the ideology of the Salazar regime, but after the Portuguese revolution of 1974, and especially during the 1980s, the contrast ceased to be perceived as a virulent one by most historians.

As the Braudelian moment of the Annales school lost steam in France after 1968, the key renewal of Portuguese-Asian history went under way in the 4th section of the École Pratique des Hautes Études, under the aegis of Jean Aubin and Geneviève Bouchon, and in close connection with the work of Denys Lombard. The journal Mare Luso-Indicum, later published as Moyen Orient et Océan Indien, provided the stage for a game-changing integration of Portuguese imperial history into Asian history. The rise of so-called Luso-Asian historiography continued in Paris as Aubin was joined in the 1980s by a generation of younger researchers including Luís Filipe Thomaz, Dejanirah Couto, and Sanjay Subrahmanyam. Couto has carried on with this work in Paris. Thomaz created a school of Luso-Asian studies at the Universidade Nova of Lisbon, from which a now very active generation of historians including Jorge Flores, Jorge Santos Alves, Paulo Sousa Pinto, and many others, emerged. Much of this work received support, between 1986 and 2002, from the Comissão Nacional para a Comemoração dos Descobrimentos Portugueses, a state-funded organization created to commemorate the fifth centenary of the Portuguese voyages of exploration through exhibitions, events, and numerous publications including the journals Mare Liberum and Oceanos. In parallel to it, a smaller but equally significant strand of studies emerged thanks to the legal historian António Manuel Hespanha and his disciples, including Catarina Madeira Santos and Ângela Barreto Xavier. It is in proximity to this strand that Giuseppe Marcocci has more recently developed work into the connections between religious, institutional and intellectual history in the Portuguese empire.

During that same period, Subrahmanyam popularized the main findings of mainly the Aubin school—the Estado as an Asian polity, the importance of studying go-betweens and biographies in general, the complicated intertwinement between political and economic interests, the factional tensions at the heart of the empire, the agency of “local” Asian elites—in the Anglophone world. The Luso-Asianist strand of historiography has thus begun to merge again with a longstanding, empiricist, Anglophone tradition of scholarship personified, through the 1950s to 1990s, by the English historian Charles Ralph Boxer. Boxer’s works remain valid on many fronts despite their hesitancy in taking up the methodological innovations proposed elsewhere. It is in this tradition that Anthony Disney has been able to offer excellent synthetic overviews, which are bound to remain useful in the long term. In a similar vein, one notes the contributions of Francisco Bethencourt and recent overview works on Iberian expansion containing chapters about the East.46 Kenneth McPherson, Michael N. Pearson, and George Bryan Souza have meanwhile combined the use of Portuguese and other sources for their significant contributions to Indian Ocean and Pacific history. A range of studies standing in the Luso-Asianist tradition have engaged in depth with regional and local histories of Asia, from the Malukus through Siam, Sri Lanka, and South India to Basra. Most recently, the work of Pedro Machado on Vāniyā trade networks linking India and East Africa signals the discipline’s potential for illuminating South-South connections. Studies into the making of colonial science have brought considerable novelty to our understanding of Portuguese activities in Asia in the early modern period and in the 20th century.47

Simultaneously, signs of a return of a methodologically and politically conservative imperial historiography have resurfaced in Portugal. Luso-tropicalism – the notion that Portuguese migrants mingled peacefully with non-white women more than any other European diaspora – is on the rise again. The study of social inequality, racial prejudice, and slavery in the Estado remains grossly underdeveloped. Studies on plunder and the destruction of heritage are virtually non-existent. New impulses for an integrated Luso-Asian methodology with an innovative global outlook are now likely to come from institutions outside of Portugal. The most vibrant strands of research in Portugal since the turn of the millennium have concerned art history and material culture studies, urban history, the history of Portuguese Orientalism, and cartographical and science history. The latter two fields are, in the meantime, picking up momentum across the Anglophone world.

Primary Sources

Beyond numerous chronicles, both printed and unpublished, written during the early modern period, the main bodies of archival material are in Lisbon and Goa. The Portuguese capital houses a number of archives including the National Archive (Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo), the Overseas Archive (Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino), the Geographical Society (Sociedade de Geografia), the Academy of Science (Academia das Ciências de Lisboa), the National Library (Biblioteca Nacional), and the Ajuda Library (Biblioteca da Ajuda). Some Asian-related materials can also be found in Évora and Porto. The National Archive of Spain at Simancas (Archivo General de Simancas) contains, along with some other libraries and archives in Madrid and Seville, significant amounts of documentation, especially for the period of the Iberian Union of Crowns (1580–1640). Further collections are extant in Paris (Bibliothèque nationale de France) and London (British Library, including India Office, Egerton, and Additional Manuscripts). In Asia, the Historical Archive of Goa (Directorate of Archives and Archaeology) offers much material, some of which is in acute danger of loss due to inadequate storage despite recent efforts of digitization. There are no significant other local archives in Asia for the study of the early modern period, with the exception of Macao. Many early modern materials have been published in print from the 19th century onward. While the pace of those labors has slowed since the turn of the millennium, large numbers of documents are being made available digitally by some of the archives holding them. For the modern period, materials in national and regional libraries and archives abound, giving an external perspective on the Estado and the activities of the Portuguese in general.

Further Reading

  • Bethencourt, Francisco, and Diogo Ramada Curto, eds. Portuguese Oceanic Expansion, 1400–1800. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Boxer, Charles Ralph. The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415–1825. London: Hutchinson, 1969.
  • Cagle, Hugh. Assembling the Tropics: Science and Medicine in Portugal’s Empire, 1450–1700. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
  • Disney, Anthony. A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire. 2 vols. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Flores, Jorge. “The Iberian Empires, 1400–1800.” In The Cambridge World History. Vol. 6, The Construction of a Global World, 1400–1800 ce. Edited by Jerry H. Bentley, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, 271–296. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
  • Gupta, Pamila. The Relic State: St Francis Xavier and the Politics of Ritual in Portuguese India. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2014.
  • Kamat, Pratica. Farar Far: Local Resistance to Colonial Hegemony in Goa, 1510–1912. Panaji, India: Institute Menezes Braganza, 1999.
  • Levenson, Jay, ed. Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries. 3 vols. Washington, DC: Freer and Sackler Galleries, 2007.
  • Russell-Wood, Anthony John Russell A World on the Move: The Portuguese in Africa, Asia, and America, 1415–1800. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.
  • Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. The Portuguese Empire in Asia 1500–1700: A Political and Economic History. London: Longman, 1993.
  • Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  • Xavier, Ângela Barreto, and Ines G. Županov. Catholic Orientalism: Portuguese Empire, Indian Knowledge (16th–18th Centuries). New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015.


  • 1. Anthony Disney, A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire, vol. 2 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 43–44, 119–122; and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

  • 2. Luís Filipe Thomaz, “Factions, Interests and Messianism: The Politics of Portuguese Expansion in the East, 1500–1521,” The Indian Economic and Social History Review 28, no. 1 (1991): 97–109.

  • 3. Jorge Flores, “‘They Have Discovered Us’: The Portuguese and the Trading World of the Indian Ocean,” in Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries, ed. Jay Levenson (Washington, DC: Freer and Sackler Gallery, 2007), 2:185–193.

  • 4. A comprehensive narrative can be found in João Paulo Oliveira e Costa and Vítor Luís Gaspar Rodrigues, Portugal y Oriente: El proyecto indiano del Rey Juan (Madrid: Fundación Mapfre, 1992). For a briefer overview, see Disney, A History, 125–129.

  • 5. Disney, A History, 129–134.

  • 6. Luís Filipe Thomaz, De Ceuta a Timor, 2nd ed. (Lisbon: Difel, 1994), 210; Francisco Bethencourt and Diogo Ramada Curto, eds., Portuguese Oceanic Expansion, 1400–1800 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007); and Luís Filipe Thomaz, L’expansion portugaise dans le monde (XIVe-XVIIIe siècles): Les multiples facettes d’un prisme (Paris: Chandeigne, 2018).

  • 7. See Anthony Disney, “What Was the Estado da India? Four Contrasting Images,” Indica 38, no. 1–2 (2001): 161–168.

  • 8. Ernst van Veen, Decay or Defeat? An Inquiry into the Portuguese Decline in Asia, 1580–1645 (Leiden, The Netherlands: University of Leiden, 2000); and also see Rafael Valladares, Castilla y Portugal en Asia (1580–1680): Declive imperial y adaptación (Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2001).

  • 9. Ricardo Roque, Headhunting and Colonialism: Anthropology and the Circulation of Human Skulls in the Portuguese Empire, 1870–1930 (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010).

  • 10. Thomaz, De Ceuta a Timor.

  • 11. Charles Ralph Boxer, “Portuguese and Spanish Projects for the Conquest of Southeast Asia, 1580–1600,” Journal of Asian History 3 (1969): 118–136.

  • 12. See Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Holding the World in Balance: The Connected Histories of the Iberian Empires, 1500–1640,” American Historical Review 112, no. 5 (2007): 1359–1385; and cf. Zoltán Biedermann, (Dis)connected Empires: Portuguese Imperialism, Sri Lankan Diplomacy, and the Making of a Habsburg Conquest in Asia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

  • 13. See Zoltán Biedermann, The Portuguese in Sri Lanka and South India: Studies in the History of Empire, Diplomacy and Trade, 1500–1650 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2014), 7–32; and Stefan Halikowski-Smith, “‘The Friendship of Kings Was in the Ambassadors’: Portuguese Diplomatic Embassies in Asia and Africa during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” Portuguese Studies 22, no. 1 (2006): 101–134.

  • 14. For a systematic overview, see António Vasconcelos de Saldanha, Iustum Imperium: Dos tratados como fundamento do império dos portugueses no Oriente; Estudo de história do direito internacional e do direito português (Lisbon: Fundação Oriente, 1997).

  • 15. See Zoltán Biedermann, Anne Gerritsen, and Giorgio Riello, eds., Global Gifts: The Material Culture of Diplomacy in Early Modern Eurasia (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

  • 16. Thomaz, “Factions, Interests and Messianism.”

  • 17. See Vitorino Magalhães Godinho, Os Descobrimentos e a Economia Mundial, 2nd rev. and exp. ed., 4 vols. (Lisbon: Presença, 1981–1983); Anthony Disney, Twilight of the Pepper Empire: Portuguese Trade in Southwest India in the Early Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978); and James C. Boyajian, Portuguese Trade under the Habsburgs 1580–1640 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).

  • 18. For a more nuanced analysis, see Sanjay Subrahmanyam and Luís Filipe Thomaz, “Evolution of Empire: The Portuguese in the Indian Ocean during the Sixteenth Century,” in The Economy of Merchant Empires, ed. James D. Tracy (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 298–331.

  • 19. See Disney, A History, 149–153.

  • 20. Disney, A History, 153–159.

  • 21. See George Bryan Souza, “Connections and Economic Relationships: Portuguese Global and Intra-Asian Maritime Commerce and Qing China’s Economy, ca. 1771 – ca. 1842,” in Empires en Marche: Rencontres entre la Chine et l’Occident à l’âge modern (XVIeXIXe siècles), ed. Dejanirah Couto and François Lachaud (Paris: EFEO, 2017), 167–185; and Kenneth McPherson, “Staying On: Reflections on the Survival of Portuguese Enterprise in the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia from the Seventeenth to the Eighteenth Century,” in Iberians in the Singapore-Melaka Area (16th to 18th Century), ed. Peter Borschberg (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2004), 63–91.

  • 22. See George Bryan Souza, The Survival of Empire: Portuguese Trade and Society in China and the South China Sea 1630–1754 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

  • 23. Disney, A History, 161.

  • 24. On these, see Charles Ralph Boxer, Portuguese Society in the Tropics: The Municipal Councils of Goa, Macao, Bahia, and Luanda, 1510–1800 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965).

  • 25. Disney, A History, 162–165.

  • 26. Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Portuguese Empire in Asia 1500–1700: A Political and Economic History (London: Longman, 1993).

  • 27. See Francisco Bethencourt, “Low Cost Empire: Interaction between Portuguese and Local Societies in Asia,” in Rivalry and Conflict: European Traders and Asian Trading Networks in the 16th and 17th Centuries, ed. Ernst van Veen and Leonard Blussé (Leiden, The Netherlands: CNWS, 2005), 108–130.

  • 28. See Dejanirah Couto, “Quelques observations sur les renégats portugais en Asie au XVIeme siècle,” Mare Liberum 16 (1998): 57–85; Maria Augusta Lima Cruz, “Exiles and Renegades in Early Sixteenth-Century Portuguese India,” The Indian Economic and Social History Review 23, no. 3 (July-September 1986): 249–262; and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, ed., Sinners and Saints: The Successors of Vasco da Gama (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995).

  • 29. Subrahmanyam, Portuguese Empire in Asia, 221–222; and Disney, A History, 147–149.

  • 30. For a later period, see Per Axelson, Paulo Teodoro de Matos, and Paulo Silveira e Sousa, eds., “The Demography of the Portuguese Empire: Sources, Methods and Results, 1776–1822,” special issue, Anais de História de Além-Mar 16 (2005).

  • 31. Charles Ralph Boxer, Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 14151825 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963).

  • 32. Ann Pescatello, “The African Presence in Portuguese India,” in Journal of Asian History 11, no. 1 (1977): 26–48; Jeanette Pinto, Slavery in Portuguese India, 1510–1842 (Bombay: Himalaya Publishing, 1992); Tatiana Seijas, Asian Slaves in Colonial Mexico: From Chinos to Indians (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014); and cf. Nira K. Wickramasinghe and Alicia F. Schrikker, “The Ambivalence of Freedom: Slaves in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” The Journal of Asian Studies 78, no. 3 (2019): 497–519.

  • 33. On cultural conversions and caste, see Ângela Barreto Xavier, A invenção de Goa: Poder imperial e conversões culturais nos séculos XVI e XVII (Lisbon: ICS, 2008); parts of this work are explored in her “Disquiet on the Island: Conversion, Conflicts and Conformity in Sixteenth-Century Goa,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 44, no. 3 (2007): 269–295.

  • 34. See Charles Ralph Boxer, The Church Militant and Iberian Expansion, 1440–1770 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).

  • 35. Ines Županov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in 17th-Century South India (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); and Liam Brockey, Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579–1724 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).

  • 36. See Giuseppe Marcocci, “A fé de um império: A inquisição no mundo português de Quinhentos,” Revista de História 164 (2011): 65–100.

  • 37. See Giuseppe Marcocci, A consciência de um império: Portugal e o seu mundo (sécs.XV–XVII) (Coimbra, Portugal: Coimbra University Press, 2012).

  • 38. Ananya Chakravarti, The Empire of Apostles: Religion, Accommodatio, and the Imagination of Empire in Early Modern Brazil and India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2018).

  • 39. Stefan Halikowski-Smith, “Languages of Subalternity and Collaboration: Portuguese in English Settlements across the Bay of Bengal, 1620–1800,” International Journal of Maritime History 28, no. 2 (2016): 237–267.

  • 40. See José Mattoso and Walter Rossa, eds., Património de Origem Portuguesa no Mundo: Arquitectura e Urbanismo, vol. 3 (Lisbon: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 2010); materials from this vast inventory are available online in English. Both the Portuguese and the English version are now under HPIP

  • 41. Hélder Carita, Indo-Portuguese Architecture in Cochin and Kerala (New Delhi: Transbooks, 2009); and Hélder Carita, Palaces of Goa: Models and Types of Indo-Portuguese Civil Architecture (London: Robert Hale, 1999).

  • 42. Zoltán Biedermann, “Colombo versus Cannanore: Contrasting Structures of Two Early Colonial Port Cities in South Asia,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 53, no. 2 (2009): 413–459, revised and extended in Biedermann, Portuguese in Sri Lanka, 103–138.

  • 43. See Henrique Leitão and Palmira Fontes da Costa, “Portuguese Imperial Science: A Historiographical Review,” in Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, 1500–1800, ed. Dagmar Bleichmar, et al. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008), 35–53.

  • 44. Zoltán Biedermann, “Imagining Asia from the Margins: Early Portuguese Mappings of the Continent’s Architecture and Space,” in Architecturalized Asia: Mapping the Continent through Architecture and Geography, ed. Vimalin Rujivacharakul, et al. (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013), 35–51.

  • 45. Ângela Barreto Xavier and Ines G. Županov, Catholic Orientalism: Portuguese Empire, Indian Knowledge (16th–18th Centuries) (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015).

  • 46. Fernando Bouza, Pedro Cardim, and Antonio Feros, The Iberian World 1450–1820 (London: Routledge, 2019).

  • 47. Apart from a rich tradition of studies into cartographic history, one notes studies by Timothy Walker, Tara Alberts and Hugh Cagle into botanic and medical history. Also see Ricardo Roque, Headhunting and Colonialism: Anthropology and the Circulation of Human Skulls in the Portuguese Empire, 1870–1930 (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010).