The Visitor: André Palmeiro and the Jesuits in Asia

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The Visitor: André Palmeiro and the Jesuits in Asia | Liam Matthew Brockey

The Visitor: André Palmeiro and the Jesuits in Asia

Liam Matthew Brockey

Harvard University Press

September 2014


528 pages

In an age when few people ventured beyond their place of birth, André Palmeiro left Portugal on a journey to the far side of the world. Bearing the title “Father Visitor,” he was entrusted with the daunting task of inspecting Jesuit missions spanning from Mozambique to Japan. A global history in the guise of a biography, The Visitor tells the story of a theologian whose extraordinary travels bore witness to the fruitful contact—and violent collision—of East and West in the early modern era.

In India, Palmeiro was thrust into a controversy over the missionary tactics of Roberto Nobili, who insisted on dressing the part of an indigenous ascetic. Palmeiro walked across Southern India to inspect Nobili’s mission, recording fascinating observations along the way. As the highest-ranking Jesuit in India, he also coordinated missions to the Mughal Emperors and the Ethiopian Christians, as well as the first European explorations of the East African interior and the highlands of Tibet.

Orders from Rome sent Palmeiro farther afield in 1626, to Macau, where he oversaw Jesuit affairs in East Asia. He played a crucial role in creating missions in Vietnam and seized the opportunity to visit the Chinese mission, trekking thousands of miles to Beijing as one of China’s first Western tourists. When the Tokugawa Shogunate brutally cracked down on Christians in Japan—where neither he nor any Westerner had power to intervene—Palmeiro died from anxiety over the possibility that the last Jesuits still alive would apostatize under torture.

Liam Matthew Brockey is Professor of History at Michigan State University.

Note on Orthography and Usage
Prelude: Nagasaki, 1635

Introduction: Company Man

Part One: Inside the Empire

1. Entering the Order
2. The Visitor in Training
3. Manager of Men
4. In the Footsteps of the Apostles
5. Among Archbishops, Emperors, and Viceroys

Part Two: At Empire’s Edge

6. The View from Macau
7. To Beijing and Back Again
8. Challenging Accommodation
9. Sunrise in the West
10. Sunset in the East

Conclusion: A Baroque Death

Illustration Credits

“André Palmeiro (1569–1635) is one of the forgotten men of Jesuit history… Liam Brockey’s major interpretative biography deserves to achieve a reversal of this neglect… Brockey’s colorful and meticulously researched travel narrative takes us with him to South India and Sri Lanka, Macau and Beijing, as well as to other fields for which Palmeiro had responsibility but never visited in person… In his extended discussion of the principle of accommodation in the Chinese context, Brockey is at his most original and controversial… This is a book with the potential to redraw the historical map of Christian missions in Asia. It is the product of exhaustive archival and library research in Rome and Lisbon. It is also beautifully illustrated and engagingly written. Liam Brockey has reminded us that the most significant Christian missionary enterprise of early modern times depended for its stability and survival on ecclesiastical bureaucrats. André Palmeiro, God’s mandarin, deserves his place in historical memory alongside the more charismatic figures of Xavier, de Nobili and Ricci.”
Brian StanleyThe Times Literary Supplement

“An account of the fascinating life of [André] Palmeiro, a Portuguese appointed by his superiors in Rome in 1617 to inspect Jesuit missions around the world.”
Mark O’NeillThe South China Morning Post

“A substantial, scholarly biography of a figure who has hitherto only been a footnote in Jesuit history.”
Thomas TallonThe Tablet

“This story transcends Palmeiro’s life… Indeed, it is Palmeiro’s own letters and his lively accounts of his journeys, along with other sources, that Brockey puts to excellent use in his account of Jesuit enterprise in the Portuguese Empire in maritime Asia… In crafting Palmeiro’s life story Brockey brilliantly accomplishes his goal of shedding light on different historical contexts as well as the problems and questions of the early modern world… This well-written and enjoyable book illustrates how Palmeiro’s final days until his death marked the end of a generation of Jesuits whose dreams materialized in the expansion of Christianity in Asia.”
Ana Carolina HosneTimes Higher Education

“This excellent book describes the Jesuit Asian missions at a crucial time through the eyes and reports of André Palmeiro (1569–1635), a Portuguese Jesuit… Brockey offers many insights in good evocative prose. Telling the story of the missions and disputed matters through Palmeiro is very effective, not least because it enables readers to see how the Asian missions functioned on a personal and practical level.”
P. GrendlerChoice

“A richly colored baroque portrait of a philosophy professor turned world traveler, the Portuguese priest André Palmeiro. Its subject spent two decades as a plenipotentiary ‘visitor’ representing the highest authorities of the Jesuit order in mission areas extending from Mozambique and Ethiopia through Goa and Malabar to China and Japan. The political and cultural challenges that Palmeiro faced in that vast and varied space are treated extensively. The Visitor is a display of rigorous and inventive historical scholarship, founded in a mastery of the archives. Brockey writes with imagination, scope, and style.”
J. S. A. Elisonas, Indiana University

“Liam Brockey does what an excellent scholar should in a pioneering work. He helps us understand Palmeiro’s work and its importance for the history of the world. He also achieves what seemed impossible from the evidence available: vividly and convincingly, he evokes much of Palmeiro’s spiritual and intellectual life.”
Felipe Fernández-Armesto, author of Our America


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