Early Modern Litterae Indipetae for the East Indies

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Early Modern Litterae Indipetae for the East Indies | Elisa Frei

Early Modern Litterae Indipetae for the East Indies

Elisa Frei

Jesuit Studies




During the early modern period, thousands of Jesuits across Europe wrote individual applications for appointments in the “Indies” directly to the superior general of the Society of Jesus in Rome. Known today as litterae indipetae (from Indias petere, that is, applying for the missions in the Eastern and Western territories), these letters encompassed the most personal desires, hopes, and dreams of young Jesuits who sought to become missionaries.
This book is the first English monograph on litterae indipetae and studies their style and structure, the background of their authors and the reasons behind this choice, and the network surrounding this practice (natural and spiritual families, procurators, confrères). Its purpose is also to recapture the experiences of these individuals since lost to history by studying thousands of indipetae, in this case written mainly by Italian Jesuits at the turn of the eighteenth century. It focuses especially on the petitions aimed at East Asia and analyzes in depth case-studies of Jesuits whose missionary zeal for China and Japan¬ was fulfilled—or not.

Elisa Frei is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Catholic Theology of the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt. She also works at the Digital Indipetae Database, hosted by the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies at Boston College, and is a research associate at the University of York. She has published widely on Jesuit missions, and co-edited the eight-volume series Asia by the Jesuit Daniello Bartoli.



Litterae Indipetae
 1.1 Purpose, Structure, and Instructions
 1.2 A “Typical” Petitioner?: Health and Age

Desires: Push and Pull Factors
 2.1 Pull Factors: Reading
 2.2 Push Factors: Reasons to Leave

The Petitioners’ Network
 3.1 Strategies to Be Chosen: Not Only Indipetae, but Also Hearings in Rome
 3.2 The Generals and Their Replies

Case Studies: China and Japan
 4.1 The Desire for the Far East
 4.2 “Unsuccessful” Candidates
 4.3 “Successful” Candidates
 Appendix 1: Asian Preference in the indipetae from the Italian Assistancy (1687–1730)
 Appendix 2: Indipetae Sent from the Italian Assistancy (1687–1730)
 Appendix 3: Origin of the indipetae Written from the Italian Assistancy (1687–1730)
 Appendix 4: Indipetae from the Italian Assistancy according to the Jesuit Province (1687–1730)



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