Native Spies and Imperial Designs across Portuguese Asia: Macau, 1626; Goa, 1634
Centre for Comparative and Public History, Department of History, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Thursday, October 6, 2022
11 am CET / 2:30 pm IST / 5 pm HKT
The intelligence gathering systems of the early modern European empires in Asia remain largely unearthed, as studies comparable to C. A. Bayly's Empire and Information (1997) lack for the period prior to the late eighteenth century. The Portuguese Estado da Índia, with its capital in the city of Goa, is certainly no exception: we know very little about the agents, networks, and technologies of information put in place by the Portuguese in the vast geographical area stretching from East Africa to East Asia. This paper seeks to contribute to fill this gap by suggesting a comparative analysis of two relevant cases involving indigenous informants who provided the Portuguese with intelligence about two distinct political landscapes in the second quarter of the seventeenth century. The first one refers to a report dated 1626 and offered to the authorities of Macau by the Chinese convert Salvador Dias on the situation of Taiwan. The second consists of a detailed picture about the situation in the Deccan sultanate of Bijapur in 1634 (on the eve of its submission to the Mughal Empire) prepared by an anonymous Hindu Brahman upon the request of the viceroy of Goa. Considered together, these two pieces open a window into the world of spies and political ethnography in "Portuguese Asia."
Department of History and Philosophy of Sciences, University of Lisbon
A major specialist in the social and cultural history of the early modern Portuguese empire in Asia, with a special focus on Mughal India, Sri Lanka, and the Malay Peninsula, Jorge Flores is the author of many publications, including the recent book Unwanted Neighbors: The Mughals, the Portuguese, and Their Frontier Zones (OUP, 2018). His future plans include a project about pictorial forms of political dissent and insult in Portuguese India, as well as a volume on Iberian Asia for Routledge.