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Portuguese Empire Notes

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THE PORTUGUESE EMPIRE

M. Pearson, The Indian Ocean (New York, 2003), Ch. 5, 'Europeans in an Indian Ocean World', pp.113-159

Asserts initially that the impact of the European presence over its first 250 years was limited; 'my whole argument is that the presence of Europeans is one thing, and certainly there were increasing numbers of them in the Indian Ocean region in the period, but to see this as the beginning of the demonstrable dominance of the nineteenth century is to take a very teleological view indeed'

Andrew Hess points out that between the Portuguese capture of Ceuta and 1522, when Magellan set off around the world, the Europeans began maritime expansions, or even 'empires'; the Portuguese version, which existed alongside the Ottoman, was essentially maritime, but for the latter, taxing and controlling land was the focus, with maritime matters merely an adjunct (cf. Andrew C. Hess, 'The Evolution of the Ottoman Seaborne Empire in the Age of Oceanic Discoveries, 1453-1525', American Historical Review, LXXV, 1970, pp.1892-1919)

Pearson goes on to proffer the suggestion that 'the Portuguese introduced politics into the Indian Ocean', who were 'the first Europeans to arrive in the Indian Ocean in numbers, and in an organised fashion'

The initial responses to the Portuguese varied from amazement to hostility to contempt

The Portuguese identified quite quickly the main choke points and strategic places around the Indian Ocean littoral; indeed, the early correspondence, histories and other accounts devote much effort to this sort of identification of where was vital to control; Goa (1510), Colombo (1505; a fort built in 1518), Melaka (1511), Hurmuz (1515), Diu (1535) and Aden were seen as most strategically located to serve Portuguese ends, and all except the last were taken; these port cities were all flourishing before the Portuguese conquest (Goa was centrally located to control the Arabian Sea; Colombo strategically important and provided access to cinnamon trade; Melaka and Hurmuz controlled choke points, etc.)

These sites, argues Pearson, were seized with several ends in mind; their capture helped the Portuguese to undermine the Muslims who had previously dominated Indian Ocean trade, especially in spices; they acted as starting points for conversion movements inland; they provided facilities for Portuguese fleets, both naval and maritime

In a general sense, the Portuguese were trying to create or impose a hierarchy de novo in the Indian Ocean; they envisaged a system whereby Lisbon would control Goa, and Goa in turn would control the Indian Ocean outposts; Pearson suggests that both the nature of this political aspiration and its extent were truly revolutionary

Subrahmanyam and Thomasz noted that 'in the first half of the sixteenth century, 'Portuguese India' did not designate a space that was geographically well-defined, but a complex of territories, establishments, goods, persons, and administrative interests in Asia and East Africa [Mozambique, primarily], generated by or subordinate to the Portuguese Crown, all of which were linked together as a maritime network' - a network within which the aims were largely economic

The Portuguese declared that all trade in spices was to be conducted by themselves, or by people licensed by them; coercion used; those breaking this declaration were to be severely punished; patrolled waters off the coast all around the Indian Ocean looking for 'pirates' - those 'illicit' traders who operated outside the imposed Portuguese monopoly

They also wanted to direct and tax all trade in the Ocean; they required that all trading ships in the Ocean took a licence, or cartaz, from the Portuguese authorities, which would require the Asian ships to call at Portuguese outposts or ports and pay customs duties which would aid the Portuguese in their continual control of the Ocean's trade routes


While the Portuguese presence remained fundamentally maritime and littoral throughout, this did not mean that the priorities of the 'empire' did not change; around mid-century (1550ish), the focus moved from one looking to the carreira and the trade to the metropole towards a much more Asia-centred one To the Portuguese, anyone flouting their system of trade control, most notably the Mapillah traders in Malabar, were pirates; today we see these people as traditional traders who perforce tried to avoid the Portuguese system and continue trading in pepper and other products; by monopolising Asian trade in spices, the Portuguese hoped to achieve two, related, goals; to dispossess Muslim traders was to strike a blow for Christianity, but perhaps more importantly, a monopoly would mean that the Portuguese could buy cheap in Asia and sell dear in Europe - in the first few decades of the sixteenth century, they came close to achieving these aims Around 1515, the spice trade made profits for Portugal of about 1,000,000 cruzados, equal to all the ecclesiastical revenues, and double the value of trade in gold and metals; Portuguese success marked, for a while, a reorientation of Europe's spice markets; Lisbon replaced Venice, at least temporarily; King Manuel told a Venetian envoy that he should tell Venice "that from now on you should send your ships to carry spices from here"; Venetian authorities gloomily predicted that "there is no doubt that the Hungarians, Germans, Flemish and French, and those beyond the mountains, who formerly came to Venice to buy spices with their money, will all turn towards Lisbon" Yet by mid-century, the Levant trade was flourishing again, while the Portuguese share of the supply to Europe fell away fast; in the earlier 1500s, the Portuguese took some 20,000 to 30,000 quintals of pepper to Europe annually; by the end of the century this had fallen to a mere 10,000 quintals; they took 30% of Malabar production in 1515, but just 3 or 4% by 1600 Why did it go wrong for the Portuguese? (1) they had to conciliate several local rulers by allowing them some trade in spices; (2) existing traders, especially the Mapilahs of Kerala boldly evaded the Portuguese fleets; (3) much pepper traded by land, where the Portuguese had effectively no influence or control; (4) failure to take Aden left an easy route for spices to reach the Red Sea, the Middle East and the Mediterranean They were far from dominant in the bullion trade along the Cape Route; much more bullion came into the Indian Ocean area via the Red Sea than came around the Cape of Good Hope; the requirement of finding more money to pay for the spices meant that the Portuguese were soon intricately linked into the country trade of Asia; they found in Zimbabwe gold which could be used to pay for the spices; but the gold had to be paid for too; Portuguese had no control over ivory flows from Africa either



Portuguese attempted to foster relations with Safavid Iran and Ottoman lands; as they came to terms with the Indian Ocean trading system, the Portuguese soon realised that their relations with Gujarat would determine the success or failure of their wider aims; they suffered at the hands of Ming China, a powerful land and maritime power; but from the mid-1550s, they were able to establish themselves in Macau, albeit under strict Ming subordination Political impact of the Portuguese MINOR; economic impact, varied: on the East African coast, they were trying to disrupt, and take over, a well-integrated trading system; once their intentions became clear, the existing Muslim traders sometimes worked in cooperation with the Portuguese, but many continued to trade in locations outside of Portuguese control; the length of the coast and the vast and complex Zambezi delta made it very difficult to do this; at different times, Angoche, Mombasa and Pate were able to keep going a trade which flouted the Portuguese and in effect continued the preceding system of open and free trade In the southern shores of the Middle East, there was one major but temporary change; for a while the Portuguese successfully managed a monopoly in the pepper and spices trade, but was largely broken by mid-century; very little change to the predominantely coastal trade of the Hadhramaut coast, although the port city of Hurmuz did suffer; there is clear evidence of the Portuguese and Gujarati traders cooperating and being prepared to be flexible when necessary, and overall the changes in Gujarat's trade over the sixteenth century were slight, despite localised instances of much more noticeable change, in, for instance, the Portuguese-controlled city of Diu; Calicut declined as a result of Portuguese attacks Further unable to achieve a monopoly through sea patrols in Sri Lanka's coastal waters; various unsuccessful land wars in Sri Lanka contributed to the decline of the estado at the end of the sixteenth century and later Summation of the Portuguese impact provided by Pearson: "the key word must be continuity"; most things did not change; markets and trade remained controlled, at the most fundamental level, by the monsoons; the major markets needed either to be located adjacent to major production areas, as in Gujarat, or at choke points, such as Aden, Melaka, or Hurmuz; the goods traded in these markets changed little; the great bulk of the trade remained coastal in small port markets strung along the Indian Ocean littoral; variety remained the key for the dominant merchant communities In areas controlled more tightly by the Portuguese (western India), Muslim traders faced great opposition and moved away; the only real success for the Portuguese was Goa, which benefitted from their control (albeit a smaller trade than the Gujarati ports) By the middle of the seventeenth century, the Portuguese official position in the Indian Ocean was shot to pieces, mostly by Dutch cannon, as many of its major ports had been lost, and the estado became in part a land-based entity

In theory, the Cape Route, linking the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, was a much more lucrative alternative to route through the Red Sea, then overland to Alexandria and the Mediterranean ports in the Middle East; in practice it was little better; the voyages were treacherous and lasted many months; much of the cargo reaching Lisbon was poorly stored and of poor quality

Pearson states that the argument that the Portuguese brought fruits of the Renaissance to Asia is a problematic one; most of the printing which went on in Goa (where a printing press arrived in 1556) was religious propaganda It is also difficult, says Pearson, to maintain the claim that, in a long-term view, the Portuguese opened the door for other Europeans to come in and change Asia profoundly; in many areas, the Portuguese had no particular advantage over the Asian states and peoples with whom they had dealings… 'the Portuguese effort…must be seen as a tour de force, that is a prodigious effort which however had no flow on and no consequences - in short, a one-off achievement' Several reasons offered for this failure: (1) vast nature of the areas they attempted to control, and a lack of manpower (is this really a suitable argument? - 100,000 British ruled over 200 million Indians) (2) lack of knowledge and new conditions (disease
- it seems that the Portuguese suffered more from Asian diseases than the Asians did from European ones); (3) what Pearson perhaps anachronistically calls 'inefficiency and corruption' (such as the captains of Diu taking bribes for allowing 'illegal' trade) (4) perhaps a counter-factual case that the Portuguese would have done better to engage in peaceful trade - sometimes violence was clearly counter-productive; peaceful trade would have meant no need for expensive forts and fleets

S. Subrahmanyam, 'Written on Water: Designs and Dynamics in the Portuguese Estado da India', in S. Alcock et al, eds., Empires: Perspectives from History and Archaeology (2001), pp.42-70

Subrahmanyam begins with the simple dictum that all empires are states, but not all states are empires

He does not favour viewing empires only as entities which, along structuralist lines, are required to meet a large number of criteria (e.g. elaborate hierarchical administrative systems, extensive military power and its related fiscal mechanisms, control over extensive land-masses, a large subject population, and substantial revenues); he proposes instead a rather more minimal, contingent, and conjunctural definition of empire, one that controls, inter alia, for the passage of time; thus one ought not anachronistically to demand from empires of the centuries before the Common Era the same that one does from earlymodern empires, for instance

With Portugal, the issue for Subrahmanyam is that their 'imperial' state did not fit into the mould and heritage defined in antiquity by four classic, and generally admitted, precedents: (i) Alexander's empire; (ii) Achaemendis in Persia; (iii) Rome; and (iv) China; while it is clear that the Portuguese monarch in the years before 1580 did not refer to himself as 'emperor', both the Italians and other northern European rivals saw Lisbon's overseas possessions in those terms

Gives a three-fold 'minimal' definition of empires, described as: (1) states powered by an ideological motor that claimed extensive, at times even universal, forms of dominance, rather than the mere control of a compact domain; (2) as states with an extensive geographical spread, embracing more than one cultural domain or eco-zone; and (3) as states where the idea of suzerainty was a crucial component of political articulation, and where the monarch was defined not merely as king, but as "king over kings", with an explicit notion of hierarchy in which various levels of sovereignty, both "from above" and "from below", were involved

Writing in 1985, in a classic essay on the administrative and political structure of the Portuguese state in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Asia, the most innovative Portuguese historian of that domain, Luis Filipe Thomaz, wrote precisely of his









subject matter: "When we confront it with the current notion of empire, the Portuguese Estado da India may appear to us to be somewhat original, and even disconcerting"; he nevertheless proposed to include the Portuguese presence in Asia within the category of empire, while contrasting the Portuguese and Spanish 'imperial' ambitions and possessions of the period Subrahmanyam deals with the period 1505 (when Dom Francisco de Almeida was sent out as the first viceroy of Portuguese India) and 1665 (when hostilities between the Dutch and Portuguese had nearly come to an end in Asia) He seeks to address previously historiography of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean, which focused on an Age of Consolidation in the first half of the sixteenth century, followed by an Age of Decadence (reaching its lowest point under the later Habsburgs in the 1630s); instead, Subrahmanyam views the Portuguese presence as a constantly evolving one, responding to a multiplicity of stimuli in both Asia and Europe Around 1540, one contemporary put the human dimension of Portugal's empire at 6-7000 Portuguese between Sofala and China; in the 1570s, chronicler Diogo do Couto put the total number of Portuguese in Asia at some 16,000 No less significant in geographical spread, as well as perhaps in its long-term influence, was the missionary influence, with the major religious orders from the second half of the sixteenth century being the Jesuits, the Franciscans, and the Augustinians; Subrahmanyam therefore supports Boxer's (1969) view that 'the purse and the cross continued to be the two poles of attraction around which the Portuguese presence in Asia functioned as late as the mid-seventeenth century; indeed (aside from a few fortresses) the most lasting architectural remains of Portuguese Asia are indeed monastic constructions Beside the dual-presences of trader-settlers and ecclesiastics, the Portuguese Estado, at any time in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, also comprised several thousand soldiers and mariners, spread across a variety of garrisons and fleets; there was also a subject population (of varying dimensions), largely concentrated in Goa, the so-called "Northern Province", in the Sri Lankan coastal lowlands that the Portuguese controlled for a time between the 1580s and the 1630s, and in parts of the Zambezi valley in East Africa Portuguese state intervention in an otherwise 'minor' European nation; monarchical capitalism within mercantilist framework; this phenomenon of Portuguese royal mercantilism reached its height during the period from the 1480s to the 1520s; unlike his father, Dom João II opted for Atlantic expansion rather than through the North African continent The 'building blocks' stressed by Subrahmanyam are capital and expertise, and an institutional structure founded largely on the feitorias, and its head the feitor; military force, a prominent part of one section of Portuguese society, was given fuller expression elsewhere, outside the Atlantic world (in, for instance, the sanguinary campaigns of North Africa, such as in the capture of Ceuta, and the defence of al-Qasr al-Saghir, Arzila, or Tangiers Subrahmanyam does not wish to portray the Portuguese imperial project as 'compartmentalised', that in one resided rational calculation and commerce, and in another the atavistic passions of anti-Muslim feelings; for sixteenth-century Portuguese chronicler João Barros, it was the rise of Islam which provided the logical starting point for an understanding of how the Portuguese came to be in Asia at all; but, argues Subrahmanyam, 'the careful reader of Barros and of other [contemporaries]
soon discovers that those who were so religiously motivated could often be equally the persons most fervently dedicated to the mercantilist ideology [which is often forgotten or ignored]
The 'Red-Sea Strategy' was truly killing two birds with one stone, not only giving the Portuguese a decisive advantage in the European market for pepper and spices over their Venetian rivals (who were supplied through Cairo and Alexandria), but also cut into the revenue-base of the Mamluks The central problem with the two guiding principles of Dom Manuel's overseas policy was hence not their mutually contradictory nature, but rather the hostility they evoked in certain quarters, and on account of which they remained circumscribed in reality After a series of individual maritime trading-cum-military expeditions, including two led by Vasco da Gama in 1497-9, and then again in 1502-3, the Portuguese presence in Asia acquired a certain solidarity and permanence with the sending of D. Francisco de Almeida as the first viceroy to Portuguese Asia in 1505; by 1521, the extant forts in Portuguese hands were the following, with their construction dates being indicated in brackets: from west to east Sofala (1505), Mozambique (1508), Hurmuz (1515), Chaul (1521), Goa (1505), Cannanore (1505), Calicut (1513), Cochin (1503), Kollam (1519), Colombo (1518), Pasai (1521), and Melaka (1511); forts earlier constructed and abandoned included Kilwa (1505-1512), and the islands of Suqotra (15071511) and Anjedive (1505-1507); Aden, guarding the entrance to the Red Sea was not taken, however, and the long and tradedominated coastline of Gujarat and the Konkan too was as yet not to host any Portuguese settlement Albuquerque's capture of Melaka in 1511 had profound and somewhat unforeseen consequences for the Portuguese enterprise, leading to the creation of a second pattern of activity, to the east of Cape Comorin; they gained alliances with Tamil merchants of considerable standing in the trade within the Bay of Bengal and east of Melaka Between 1511 and 1515, there were a series of joint maritime ventures, organised on a cooperative basis between the Portuguese Crown and several Tamil merchants; they were soon replaced (from 1518 onwards) by Portuguese crown shipping with a captain, factor, and scrivener aboard each vessel, all of whom were Portuguese; from these ventures gradually developed the system of carreiras (or crown voyages), between designated ports in Asia such as Pulicat and Melaka, or Melaka and Chittagong (in Bengal) It became relatively common by the early 1520s for noblemen embarking from Portugal to Asia to already have letters of authorization from the crown, appointing them to the captaincy of a certain voyage; the crown supplied the vessel, and its trading interests were secured in part by its control over the greater part of the cargo space The numbers of Portuguese involved in operations in the Bay of Bengal were far from negligible - some two or three hundred in Pulicat on the Coromandel coast of south-eastern India Throughout the mid-century (1730s-1760s) it was the Western Indian Ocean which saw the major part of the Portuguese state's maritime resources continued to be concentrated; in spite of the relatively poor Portuguese position, trade to the Red Sea from India and Southeast Asia was rather limited in the period; once the basic network of fortresses was in place, and once the European distribution of pepper and spices was more or less in Portuguese hands, the true nature of Asian demand could






also be gauged; by 1518, the return cargoes to Europe spanned a great diversity of products, unlike the rather more peppercentred cargo that was brought back in the very early years of the sixteenth century As the Papal Bull of Nicholas V noted in 1455, the monopoly was of navigation to India, nor in the Indian Ocean

Unlike the earlier decades, the 1530s are difficult to characterise; consolidation, rather than departure from the earlier trend, seems the norm; but it was also a period in which much occurred at the fringes of the consciousness of Portuguese in Asia, process which eventually impinged on their Asian enterprise in a major way (1) the creation in Brazil in the 1530s of the donatory-captaincy system, owing to which the colonization of the Brazilian interior got under way in a major way; Brazil thus began to be a competitor of Asia for resources, both human and financial (2) the Ottoman ruler Suleyman turned his attention south; Portuguese-Ottoman rivalry would continue into the 1570s was begun in the 1530s, as the Ottomans sought to consolidate control over the Red Sea littoral (though unsuccessful in their attack on the Portuguese stronghold of Diu) (3) gradual emergence in the Bay of Bengal of a new complex of trade and political power; Arakan (in northern Burma) and the Toungoo empire (in lower Burma) emerged in the 1530s as two aggressively mercantilist states; 'Bengal and Burma became the favoured hunting ground of larger and larger numbers of Portuguese, perhaps several hundred by 1550' Between 1540 and the 1570s, there was something of a fiscal and economic crisis in Portuguese Asia; poor weather and failed crops in the 1540s led to widespread famine in India and a shortfall in commerce; fluctuations in trade in Europe and along the Cape Route; political difficulties; development of virulent forms of internal opposition to official trade; private trade grew as the official carreira system ebbed away By 1570 the Portuguese had a presence in almost every region of Asia that they were to penetrate in the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; small colonies of Portuguese - missionaries, private traders, renegades or crown representatives - were to be found as far afield as Japan, China, mainland Southeast Asia, the Indonesian archipelago, the south Asian landmass, Iran and the Ottoman domain, and East Africa; use of watercolour paintings to gain insight into Portuguese Asia Nonetheless, the Portuguese Estado da India - as the settlements and territories under the control of Goa came to be called from roughly this period - remained therefore essentially a maritime affair; even the little official expansion undertaken in the 1560s continued to be along these lines; three Kanara ports were taken in 1568-9 for the quite traditional reasons of needing to control the Kanara pepper trade, and the need to secure Goa's supply lines from these rice-producing areas The Portuguese were quick to exploit the political vacuum left in south India with the defeat of the Vijayanagara empire at the hands of her northern rivals - the Sultanates of Bijapur, Ahmadnagar and Golconda (predatory Portuguese?) The four decades after 1570 were characterised on the one hand by a growing interest in the land and territorial adventurism and on the other by the rise of a set of maritime networks to rival those of the Portuguese Estado; also changes in official Portuguese intra-Asian maritime trade; Philip II of Spain (became ruler of Portugal in 1580-1) commissioned a compendium on the extent and nature of his Asian possessions In some views, the crisis summarised above left the Portuguese Asian empire hollow on the inside, ripe for demolition by the Dutch and English; yet Subrahmanyam suggests that this 'imperial decline' narrative may have been a result of social realignments which were taking place


In sum, by 1610, the Portuguese had a taste of the changed circumstances that obtained in post-Civil War Japan, and what the new, relatively centralised order, as distinct from the old daimyo-dominated dispensation meant; after 1614, the Portuguese continued their trade on borrowed time, and their eventual expulsion from Japan in the late 1630s was a particularly serious blow for the network of private trade that they had put in place within Asia Turning point for the Portuguese in Burma; 1610s, Portuguese stronghold around Syriam became a besieged enclave in a unified political zone; fall of Syriam opened the way for the free expansion of trade between India and Burma, which reached substantial proportions by the 1620s; Dutch benefited; but to see Portuguese decline purely in terms of rivalry with the Dutch is misleading; often Portuguese losses had nothing to do with the increased Dutch presence Nevertheless, the Portuguese sought and found strategies to survive in the 1630s and 1640s; more ambitious projects, such as the short-lived East India Company founded with New Christian capital in the late 1620s, failed miserably on the Cape Route The private trade carried out by private casado merchants in the Indian Ocean continued to find new markets and centres of operation; there should be awareness that the Portuguese presence in Asia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was not based on emigration on a mass scale by the Iberians serves to differentiate it to an extent from Brazil, especially in the latter part of the period The official Portuguese presence was for the most part an urban one with the exception of a few areas - such as the provincia do morte, Sri Lanka, and the Zambezi Valley; the institutions that defined the matrix of social interaction with the local context were hence largely urban ones, and frequently had precedents in peninsular Portuguese practice; some, such as the Câmara Municipal (City Council) and the Santa Casa de Misericórdia (Holy House of Mercy) can be seen elsewhere in the Portuguese empire, whether in Angola or Brazil Three possible conclusions offered by Subrahmanyam: (1) the Portuguese did have an empire in early modern Asia, but in order to recognise this, one needs to adopt a rather more flexible view of 'empire' than espoused by some; (2) the Portuguese did indeed have an empire on a global scale, taking into account Atlantic islands, Brazil, North African garrisons, West Africa, as well as Asia; (3) struggle to explain exactly what the Portuguese Estado da India actually was - not a trading 'diaspora' in the usual sense, owing to its considerable military and fiscal dimension, nor a unitary state

M.N. Pearson, 'Introduction' and 'Corruption and Corsairs in Sixteenth-Century Western India: A Functional Analysis', in M. Pearson, & B. Kling, eds., The Age of Partnership: Europeans in Asia before Dominion (1979), pp.1-43

For some, whom Pearson terms 'iconoclasts', the role of Europeans before significant imperial expansion is seen as insignificant, or at best incidental, with the blundering Europeans occasionally having some impact, but not as they expected - thus Portuguese naval attacks in the Indian Ocean inadvertently weaken the Mamluks and help the Ottoman conquest of Egypt

Pearson notes in his introduction that 'many of the essays in this volume are not even concerned with success or failure in any imperial sense…rather they describe Europeans in Asia at particular times: Europeans who make or lose money, who are prejudiced against Asians or admire their culture, who in commercial matters work with them or try to supplant them…'

It is pointless to deny that the Iberian powers were important in some areas in the sixteenth century; the Portuguese did affect Asian trade in spices, did tax most of Gujurat's external trade in the century, did convert thousands of people to Christianity, and did change decisively the balance of power on the Malabar coast

"Christians and spices" hardly explains why the Portuguese came to India late in the fifteenth century, but at the least both strands were there and were important; and Pearson suggests that it is not entirely correct to see religion as merely providing a sacral coating on the hard and fundamental economic motivation

The European preoccupation with trade in Asia was evident throughout this period and in every part of the continent where Europeans penetrated; at the state level, Pearson notes the Portuguese attempt in the sixteenth century to gain a monopoly in the Asian spice trade and to control and tax all other trade; although this effort failed, it demonstrated clearly the interests and intentions of the Portuguese

While Spain and Portugal were united under the Union of the two Crowns (from 1580-1640), trade between their colonial possessions was prohibited, but as Pearson shows, this ban did little to stop trade between Spanish Manila and Portuguese Macao; and, regarding sixteenth-century India, he cites several instances of Portuguese - officials, private individuals, and even priests - engaging in trade with an enemy of the Portuguese state; his study is not centrally concerned with economics, but does show how the Portuguese in sixteenth-century western India engaged wholeheartedly in commercial activities



"Corruption" viewed almost entirely negatively by today's standards; late nineteenth-century English writers on the Portuguese empire in India all pointed to the existence of "corruption" in the Portuguese administration as one important reason for the decline of this empire: F.C. Danvers put it thus: "A laxity of government, and a general corruption amongst the servants of the State, in which each one, regardless of the public interests, sought but his own benefit and the accumulation of wealth, only too certainly prepared the way for the downfall of Portuguese rule in India" Many of these commentators were in some way affiliated to the British Indian Civil Service or similar; all were oriented to what seemed to them to be its higher standards, or at least ideals, as compared to the sixteenth-century Portuguese Indian administration The difference between the two was seen most starkly in the method of selection for office in the respective administrations; appointments to high office were made by the King of Portugal; those to the lower ones made by his governors or captains - they were made on strictly personal grounds, not on the basis of suitability or training (not necessarily considered an inherently bad thing at the time - this sort of patronage had existed in Rome, and other empires from antiquity) The second criterion (which was increasingly used as the finances of the state deteriorated) was purchase: that is, offices were made available to the highest bidder; the determining factor was thus wealth rather than past service Much more dealing with a modern bureaucracy (British Indian Civil Service) next to a pre-modern (Portuguese) one






There was a less-than-clear distinction between public and private property, illustrated by many instances in the sixteenth century; all Indian ships trading out of the Gulf of Cambay in Gujarat were meant to call at the Portuguese fort of Diu to pay customs duties and get a Portuguese pass. Sometimes, however, a Portuguese captain would supplement his salary by taking bribes from Indian traders, in return exempting their ships from having to call at Diu (as Whiteway and others noted) The most common means of supplementing an income was forced trade: a local merchant would be forced to buy a product he did not want, and at a higher price, or sell to the Portuguese official at a lower price; complaints of these abuses in Diu date from the 1540s, but they do seem to have increased in frequency late in the century and into the seventeenth - one captain was particularly proud of having made 40,000 xerafins during his tenure (in the 1550s), but other officials were making up to seven times as much by the 1600s Diu's revenues declined during the seventeenth century due to Dutch and British competition Dubious practices were everywhere; officials would seize artillery from forts for use in their own ships; there are plenty of records of Portuguese ships seizing and plundering native ships which had Portuguese passes; these were generally, in Pearson's view, down to 'the confusion in most officials' minds between public and private property' In terms of "piracy" in the Indian Ocean, those natives of Malabar who attempted to trade outside the Portuguese control system, and anyone else in the area who opposed them, were described by the Portuguese as "cossarios" or "Malavares"; the terms were, it seems, generally interchangeable; Indian nationalist writers, such as Panikkar and Nambiar, glorified these guerrilla warriors and regarded them as patriots, even 'nationalists' themselves; all these writers follow the sixteenth-century Portuguese accounts in making the Malabaris a monolithic group As soon as they arrived in India, the Portuguese attempted to monopolize all trade in spices; throughout the century and later a stream of decrees and instructions from Portugal and Goa insisted that all trade in spices was reserved entirely for the Portuguese crown and its agents; if this monopoly could be enforced, the Muslim powers in India, the Red Sea, and Egypt would lose their most profitable trade while the Portuguese could buy cheap in Asia and sell expensive in Europe Portugal did try to reserve all pepper trade within Asia to agents of the king and to restrict the transport of pepper to Europe to Portuguese ships sailing via the Cape of Good Hope; this policy was never completely enforced; there was much evasion of the Portuguese system, and in some cases there was open armed opposition to their pretensions; in this opposition the zamorins of Calicut, on the Malabar coast, were most prominent, since Calicut had been the great Indian centre for the spice trade in the fifteenth century Not only the rulers of Calicut, but also her local merchants and traders, resisted the Portuguese claims; commercially, this resistance took the form of continuing to trade in pepper outside Portuguese control; the trade direct to the Red Sea from Calicut was blocked quite effectively by the Portuguese, but the great foreign Muslim merchants of Calicut had by 1513 moved out to safer parts, such as the Red Sea, or Hurmuz, Gujarat, and Vijayanagar It was simple enough for these foreign merchants to move away and let others bring the pepper to them, and for Red Sea traders to get pepper from other production areas; despite the fact that the local merchants of the waters around Calicut had no such alternative, it was not difficult for them to acquire pepper in Malabar; they were of course aided by Portugal's lack of control over the areas where pepper was grown; in Malabar, the Portuguese exercised a tenuous control over the coastal areas through their puppet rajas, but none at all inland - predatory Portuguese if they are not commercial?
The pepper growers were mostly Hindus, but the initial purchasers were St. Thomas Christians; they, however, were too afraid of the Portuguese to bring the pepper to the coast, so they usually sold it to the Muslim traders who had traditionally handled this trade; the Portuguese, it must be said, got poor-quality pepper; this was more due to their own poor management than to the malice of the Muslim traders; the King of Portugal had to have his capital (pepper) back in Lisbon as soon as possible, and as a result his officials were reduced to borrowing money from local Portuguese merchants, the city of Cochin, and the raja of Craganore There was also a tendency among Portuguese officials and private merchants to indulge in the highly profitable "illegal" trade themselves; in 1519, for instance, the governor left for a cruise in the Red Sea; his remaining officials in India reportedly sent cargoes of peppers north to Cambay in ships belonging to the "pirates" of Malabar; in 1520, a native official from the raja of Cochin informed the King that Portuguese officials bought pepper in Cochin for their own illegal private trade at prices high than the fixed official price at which it was bought for the King Portuguese enforcement of their policies was far from totally ineffective; there are frequent reports of their destroying or at least blockading large numbers of Malabari pepper ships; as one example, in early 1525, they caught fifty-three such ships getting ready to sail and burnt them all (Baros, III, ix, 5) - predatory?!
It seems that the tighter patrolling and controlling slightly reduced the amount of pepper brought north by the Malabaris; presumably the overland route to Coromandel was substituted; certainly the pepper which did go to Gujarat did not later in the century go to the Portuguese, for they took less and less to Europe as the century progressed Portuguese convoys failed to control the Malabaris effectively once naval warfare between them began in earnest in the second half of the century; in the late sixteenth century, all Portuguese ships, and native ships trading within their system sailed in convoys protected by warships The distinction between a pirate and a guerrilla fighter or a legitimate trader was often blurred; the Portuguese policy of indiscriminate attacks was thus to some extent justified; at times the zamorins disclaimed all responsibility for attacks on the Portuguese, though they did so more because they were at these times threatened by the Portuguese than because the attacks were really carried out without their approval Much of the "piracy" in the Indian Ocean was created by the policies of the Portuguese, while many others whom the Portuguese attacked as pirates were, except in Portuguese eyes, legitimate traders or guerrilla fighters defending Calicut from Portuguese attacks

J.C. Boyajian, Portuguese Trade in Asia under the Habsburgs, (United States, 1993), Chapter 5, 'Private and Company Trade', pp.106-127

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