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Portuguese Colonial Cities in the Early Modern World (ed. Liam Matthew Brockey), Farnham, Ashgate, 2008, 298.p, ISBN 978-0-7546-6313-3


João Paulo Oliveira e Costa
New University of Lisbon


Published in 2008, this volume analyzes the phenomenon of urbanism in the context of the Portuguese Expansion in the Modern Age. The starting point for this work is, in fact, to be found four years earlier, in April 2004, when the conference on Nodes of Empire: Portuguese Colonial Cities in the Early Modern Period took place at the University of Princeton. The group of texts that is now published does not include the contributions of all the participants at that conference, but it does include other texts that help to bring the whole volume much closer to an overall vision of the Portuguese Empire.

In the introductory preface, Liam Brockey presents this book in the expectation of its becoming the starting point for future studies, and we can, in fact, hope that its reading will arouse the interest of researchers from various origins about the theme in question. Seen from this point of view, the book presents a range of different looks at the urban spaces of three continents, with equally varied chronological records that, as a general rule, are based on an irreprehensible methodology and an in-depth knowledge of the contemporary documentation; besides this, there was clearly a significant effort of coordination, which can be felt, for example, in the frequent cross references leading readers from one chapter to another, enabling those who have less knowledge of the theme to note similarities and establish relations between the different phenomena that marked the history of the empire’s cities in such distant regions as Brazil, China or Japan. I have no doubt, therefore, that the reading of this work may stimulate researchers and students to become interested in the theme of the history of the cities of the Portuguese Empire. It should, however, be understood that this book will be able to perform this role because of the fact that, in most cases, the articles provide us with good syntheses of the great number of studies that have already been written about this theme. It is, therefore, not a work that brings very great novelties for the historiography of the Portuguese Expansion—in my view it does not match up to the editor’s wish that it will represent “a new panorama of the cities within the Portuguese colonial and cultural sphere” (14), which is also due to the fact that many of its chapters present us with case studies that are too firmly fixed in time to function as a panoramic view of the city in question, while others do not really focus on a city, as is the case with the texts by Tavim (who studies the Jews in various cities around the Empire – Chapter 1) and Ames (who presents a good synthesis on the history of the Province of the North, without fixing his attention on its cities, namely in Baçaim – Chapter 5). I am, however, certain that this book can be particularly relevant for an English-speaking audience that knows nothing of the abundant bibliography that exists on this theme, above all in Portuguese.

In his introductory study, Brockey identifies the distinguishing features of Portuguese cities: the Municipal Council, the Misericórdia, the Hospital, the confraternities, and the Portuguese language (used only as the official and institutional language, for various authors show us that the lingua franca in the cities that they studied was not the language of Camões). The editor stresses that these institutions were the hallmarks of a distinctive civic organization in the colonial cities that furthermore survived until the end of the Empire. He further adds that, at the same time, they were all culturally hybrid environments, representing “crossroads of cultures,” in which a group of institutions and individuals originating from Europe were linked to local dynamics and the force of European Colonial History. It should, in fact, be said that this is precisely one of the characteristics that is stressed most throughout the book—that the cities of the Empire were centers of intense cultural exchanges. And this is one of the themes that deserves to be studied in greater depth in the future.

Liam Brockey chose to organize the book by themes, his aim being to avoid the traditional models that tend to structure studies of this type in a geographical sequence from West to East. It is a praiseworthy choice that immediately highlights the complexity of the theme and, above all, the similarity of processes. Grouping the studies together by themes affords us a more ample view of the cities of the empire, in which one can better understand the existence of a structural model that has been developed in such different places as the Brazilian hinterland, on the shores of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, or even within the confines of the China Sea.

Having mentioned the volume’s general purposes and characteristics, let us now analyze its different chapters. Grouped together in the first part are three chapters on the theme of Religion and Empire, involving the study of three different cases: first, the presence of Jews in the cities of Morocco and on the shores of the Western Indian Ocean; next, the role of the Jesuits in the political life of Salvador da Baía at the beginning of the 17th century; finally, a Christian city, Nagasaki, which had its own ephemeral life somewhere between the fringes of the Portuguese Empire and those of its own country, the Japanese Empire.

In his article, In the shadow of Empire: Portuguese Jewish Communities in the Sixteenth Century, José Alberto Tavim does not analyze a single city but instead two religious communities—the Jews and the New Christians—and their activities throughout the Empire, from Morocco to Cochin, between the end of the 15th century and the last few decades of the 16th century. In this study, Tavim highlights the way in which two communities coexisted peacefully within the Empire during the first half of the 16th century: the Portuguese Crown permitted the existence of Jewish quarters in Moroccan fortresses, and there was also a Jewish street in Goa until 1565. In this journey through a diversified space, which also includes Ormuz, Tavim draws the reader’s attention to an important aspect of this theme of the empire’s cities, referring to the different status that the Portuguese dominions could have, a subject that is not specifically analyzed in this volume, although there are other references, particularly in the case of Nagasaki, as we shall see later on. Tavim notes that in Ormuz and Cochin the Jews lived under the authority of the local kings and were not subordinated to the Portuguese captain. The institutional flexibility of the State of India, so clearly shown by Luís Filipe Thomaz,1 made it possible for this same State of India to be formed from cities, territories and trading posts with a different legal nature. The mobility of New Christians and Jews around the Empire clearly illustrates the peculiar dynamics of Portuguese India.

The author also stresses the fact that in these years of relative tolerance Jews and New Christians believed that they were part of a “Portuguese identity” (37), and that a new policy of intolerance promoted by the royal officials in the last third of the 16th century led many New Christians to flee and even return to their Jewish faith. Tavim thus shows us that in the first decades of the 16th century the main cities of the Portuguese Empire were spaces that were more tolerant towards Jews and New Christians than the metropolis itself.

It is worth mentioning that in these years the two groups were of crucial importance for the success of business and for the relationship with the Muslim world. When the winds of intolerance began to blow in the second half of the 16th century, the Empire was already being led more by the logic of the private merchants who fatally entered into direct competition with the New Christians. At that time, there was nothing to prevent the intolerance that had been experienced in the metropolis for several decades from spreading to the State of India, especially to its dominions in the western part of the territory.

While the article by José Alberto Tavim only gives us a few scattered images of various cities (but nonetheless illustrates a specific aspect of the way in which the Portuguese overseas spaces were organized), the following one by Charlotte de Castelneau-L’Estoile simply directs our attention to a case study that does not illustrate a particular specificity of the Portuguese Empire. Resorting in particular to studies by Fernanda Bicalho, the author analyzes the role played by riot and procession in the political language of the city, apropos of the disorder aroused in 1610 by the promulgation of a law designed to protect Indians. In her conclusion, Castelneau-L’Estoile states that “riot and procession were two important elements of the political language of the Ancien Regime societies” (61). Apart from recounting an interesting episode from the history of Salvador da Baia, this article therefore limits itself to demonstrating that this city had dynamics that were peculiar to the urban spaces of that time, inasmuch as it resembled European cities, a fact which places us before the question of the emergence of a genuine colonial space—situated overseas but developing models in its way of life that were imported from the country of origin of the imperial forces.

Elisonas’ study of Nagasaki: The Early Years of an Early Modern Japanese City also shows us the formation of a city modeled according to principles that were exogenous to the country in which it was situated but with a quite different result from the one noted in Brazilian cities. Nagasaki, quite correctly referred to by Brockey as the joker in the pack of cities studied in the book (9) was, in fact, a unique experience that momentarily made it possible for a Christian city to exist in Japan. Elisonas highlights the specific dynamics of this city, which was always marked by a typically Japanese urbanism and architecture (even in the case of the churches) and inhabited almost solely by the Japanese themselves, even though, for several decades, it lived to the sound of the church bells, following the liturgical calendar of Rome, assimilating Portuguese institutions such as the Misericórdia and cultural and linguistic practices that were highly influenced by the permanent contact with the nanbanjin.

Elisonas’ article is, however, characterized by the criticism made of certain ideas that, in the author’s opinion, exaggerate the importance of the Portuguese in the birth of the city and its shaping over the first decades of its existence. However, much of this criticism relates to a “popular belief” that is not actually referred to in contemporary Portuguese historiography, so that the text has a certain Quixotic feel to it.

Elisonas begins by criticizing the idea that the Portuguese created the city “in their own image” (63), referring, amongst others, to my own studies. The author considers that there are other “hillside communities” in Japan and even reminds us that the topography of Edo/Tokyo is undulating (66). Elisonas also specifically criticizes my statement that the Portuguese created “a new city”, referring to the foundation of Nagasaki, and in this specific case he bases his claim on the fact that there existed a castle with a small settlement just over a kilometer from the new port (69). Later on, however, he distinguishes the old “castle town” from the “harbor city”, which he ends up referring to as a “new town” (71). This means that despite criticizing my formulation Elisonas ends up using it himself. And, in fact, what he states is exactly the same as I and other Portuguese researchers have repeatedly written: Nagasaki was a Japanese city, but its foundation (the choice of the site where the first neighborhoods were to be built) and its rise to become a great city of international trade were due to the Portuguese; besides this, as Elisonas himself recognizes that it was a “Christian city” (78) with equipment and institutions that had been transferred from the Portuguese model (76-77), as well as with a unique identity (69), “but it was a Japanese, not a Portuguese identity even if it had an exotic tint” (70). Now, this is precisely what recent Portuguese historiography has claimed, so that it is hard to understand why Elisonas adopts such a combative tone.

In the final part of his article, Elisonas alludes to the tenacious resistance of the inhabitants of Nagasaki to the anti-Christian policy of the shogunate, in the years immediately following the expulsion of the clergy in 1614, thus testifying to its specificity as a Christian city
Beyond his analysis of the city’s history, Elisonas also refers to the way in which firearms were introduced into Japan. As a phenomenon that has long been associated with the arrival of the Portuguese in the archipelago, it is called into question here and the hypothesis is raised that it was instead the wako2 who were actually responsible. To justify this, the author cites an exhibition held at the National Museum of Japanese History, in Autumn 2006. I did not see the exhibition, nor am I familiar with the respective catalogue, but I cannot help noting that the wako had already been moving around the China Sea for close on 300 years when the Portuguese arrived in Japan, and I am rather surprised by the coincidence that these seafaring warriors should have introduced firearms into the country at the precise time when the nanbanjin began to frequent the Japanese ports (it is an indisputable fact that muskets began to spread throughout the Japanese Empire in the 1540s). The Japanese memory itself has associated the entry of firearms into the country with the arrival of the Portuguese, for the chronicle that records the appearance of the nanbanjin in Tanegashima is entitled the Chronicle of the Shotgun, so that the hypothesis of its having been the wako who were responsible, as is evoked in this article, is nothing more than an embellishment from the current of Japanese historiography that persists in belittling the importance of the Portuguese presence in the country, and which has obvious ramifications in Anglo-Saxon authors, particularly those who originate from Protestant or anti-Catholic backgrounds.

Finally, it should be said that if we dissociate ourselves from Elisonas’ phantoms, his article provides us with an excellent synthesis of the main characteristics of Nagasaki during its nanban period, directing our attention to the extremely rare case in the History of European Expansion of the emergence of an indigenous city with a strong alien dynamics—a center for the coming together of civilizations and a center of extraordinary knowledge.

The second part of this book groups together three other studies, this time on the theme of trade, with particular attention being paid to Mozambique, the Province of the North and Macau.

Malyn Newitt presents a text entitled Mozambique Island: The Rise and Decline of a Colonial Port City, which provides us with an excellent overview of this city’s history, with the added particularity of its being linked to the evolution of the Portuguese Empire. Particular attention is drawn to the fine synthesis that is presented on pages 105 to 108 about the characteristics of the cities of the Portuguese Empire, including a pertinent comparison between those situated in the regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans and those situated in the Atlantic.

Newitt stresses the fundamental role played by the city in the context of the Carreira da Índia (India Route), as well as its links with the networks of merchants operating in the Indian Ocean and the evolution of trade, namely the establishment of the ivory trade, from the mid-16th century onwards, and the development of the slave trade from the second quarter of the 18th century onwards. He also notes the city’s defensive capacity and demonstrates that Mozambique’s resistance to the attacks by the Dutch in the early 17th century was decisive for the evolution of European colonialism in Asia, since it obliged the Dutch to shape the nature of their dominions through alternative places. Despite the success that it enjoyed in comparison with its European rivals, Mozambique failed as a port city (125), insofar as there was never any serious investment made in the development of the port, nor was it provided with decisive institutions such as a municipal council and a diocese. Newitt considers that this was due to the personal interests of the captains and adds that the maritime trade undertaken by the city provided excellent profits for more than two centuries. Its informal character was, after all, of interest to all concerned, for without any extra costs to the crown and without the presence of powers that competed with the authority of the captain, the city guaranteed the continuation of Portuguese influence over the region and made it possible for the officials and merchants operating there to make sizeable profits. In this sense, Newitt’s text reveals the relatively informal nature of the establishment that satisfied the needs of all the agents involved, from the royal officials to the private merchants.

Also demonstrated in this article is the importance of the non-European population, which in this case included Africans, Indians and people of mixed race. The author also refers to the importance of the city’s hinterland, which was not situated in the territories adjacent to the island, but was to be found further south, in the valley of the River Zambeze. Recognizing that Mozambique had always been “a hostile place for foreign shipping,” the author should perhaps have also recognized the important roles played by the hinterland and by the friendly relations that continued to be enjoyed between the Portuguese and the neighboring coastal populations in guaranteeing the permanent presence of the Portuguese in the region.

Next, Glenn Ames presents a study that, broadly speaking, lies outside the overall logic of the volume: The Province of the North: Continuity and Change. As in the article by Charlotte de Castelneau-L’Estoile, this text does not actually analyze a city of the Portuguese Empire. In the case of the French author, we are left with a very localized case study, which limits itself to illustrating the spread to Brazil of a dynamic that was common to European cities; in Ames’ article, however, the reader finds an analysis that goes far beyond examining the life of a colonial city. In fact, Ames analyzes the Province of the North as a whole, especially the trade that brought such life to its cultural exchanges. As in the articles about Nagasaki and Mozambique, our attention is once again drawn to the phenomena of cultural exchanges, in keeping with a model that is very different from the one used to describe the classical colonial cities. Ames even gives us the example of an official of the East India Company, who, around 1670, mentioned that the Portuguese lived “confusedly” amongst the Asian peoples. The urban agglomerations of the Province (Baçaim, Chaul and Damão) are barely mentioned at all, but the article provides an excellent framework for understanding the overall context chosen by the author.

Following this, Isabel dos Guimarães Sá presents a text on the theme of Charity, Ritual, and Business at the Edge of Empire: The Misericórdia of Macau. In this article, the author combines a geographical focus (Macau) with another of an institutional nature (the Misericórdias), so that her study helps the reader to understand this phenomenon as a whole. In fact, the Misericórdias rapidly spread across the Empire, having simultaneously been “a logical way of organizing charity for the poor” and “an arena of power for local elites” (149). The author also stresses the way in which these institutions managed to accumulate liquid capital, so that she considers that the Misericórdia of Macau functioned as a proto-banking institution, an idea that can be applied to the other confraternities spread around the cities of the Empire.

In this chapter, we are once again offered an overall appreciation of the characteristics of the city under consideration, which Isabel dos Guimarães Sá presents in satisfyingly correct terms. What stands out in this case is the multi-ethnic character of Macau (154), where the number of Europeans amongst the population was extremely low and where it was very rare to find women who were born in Europe. Consequently, the Portuguese who were born in the city were all either Eurasian individuals or simply Asians with some European ancestry. The author even notes that people were not being born in Portugal in sufficient numbers to fill the vacant posts at the Senado da Câmara and the Misericórdia (164), which helps us to understand that, as she states, the governor and bishop were alien elements from outside the city (162), in which the prevailing influence was that of the Jesuit (159). The author understands that the Portuguese culture survived due to the permanent arrival of men originating from Portugal and adds that the Misericórdia also made a decisive contribution towards maintaining a Portuguese identity (172-173), if only because the Portuguese community was predominantly a female one (169), and the women, as we have seen, were not born in Europe.

Thus, what comes across in this article is once again the phenomenon of miscegenation, noted earlier by Newitt and Ames. The reading of the article allows us to see that the Portuguese born in the territory were Oriental Portuguese, with faces that looked similar to those of the native people from the same country and who spoke the local language, while at the same time also speaking the language and professing the religious faith of their far-off king. And, in business, their personal interests were confused with those of China itself, as well as with those of the Portuguese Crown. Finally, it should be mentioned that, in this city, there occurred another phenomenon of interculturality, which is also noted in this work by Catarina Madeira Santos, apropos of Luanda: in effect, in their early childhood, these Oriental Portuguese were cradled and nurtured by Asian women, listening to songs and stories that involved them in the imaginary of China and Far Eastern Asia, just as the small Portuguese children of Luanda grew up listening to the sound of Kimbundu songs and the legends of the black women. This is, in fact, a dimension of the Portuguese Empire that still remains to be studied in greater depth and which finds one of its first formulations in the article by Catarina Madeira Santos.

The third and last part of the book brings together four studies centered upon the theme of the “Politics of Empire” and allows us to travel once more through the three continents over which the Portuguese Empire was to spread. Once again, it should be stated that this was undoubtedly a wise choice on the part of the editor: by organizing the work according to themes and not in a geographic sequence, Brockey causes the reader to be confronted with institutional, political and cultural similarities, and, in a certain way, he demonstrates that the perception of the empire as a whole always requires a geographic coverage and an interlinking of the different regional realities.

The text by Stuart Schwartz (The King’s Processions: Municipal and Royal Authority and the Hierarchies of Power in Colonial Salvador) is undoubtedly the one in this volume that best explains the role played by the municipal councils as an institution that served to link the royal power with the local dynamics (177). Besides providing a synthesis of the main characteristics of the municipal institution, Schwartz observes the leading figures behind the processions organized by the Câmara of Salvador and notes how these events evolved over time, seeking to celebrate the main feast days of the liturgical calendar and the most important events occurring under the dynasty, as well as the local dates of some significance, such as the commemoration of the victories over the Dutch. The author also shows us how the main body of participants in these celebrations kept changing.

Initially seen as a way of attracting the Indians, the processions included the participation of the indigenous population during the 17th century, but from the 18th century onwards the situation began to change, while at the same time the colonization of Brazil was intensified and the cities saw a significant reinforcement of the community originating from the metropolis. At the beginning of the 18th century, the Carnivalesque elements of the processions began to be contested and the Indians ceased to be mentioned, which also tends to suggest a gradual assimilation of these individuals by the colonial society, in which people of mixed race were framed under new categories. In this multi-racial society (199), mulattoes began to play an increasingly important part and to join in these great manifestations of city life, although naturally they were only afforded subordinate roles. And Schwartz also reminds us that the black people had their own festivities, such as the enthronement of the king of Congo. In 1765, the governor of the captainship of Baía banned the brotherhood of the Holy Spirit, which had many black and mulatto members, from participating in the procession, but, 15 years later, the bishop of Rio de Janeiro recognized that the batuques (folk dances) were a pagan, but after all a necessary ritual (202-203). In these lines, the author shows us the way in which Brazilian colonial society evolved under an inevitable state of tension between the different groups of which it was composed, in which the pretext of the color of a person’s skin was nothing more than a subterfuge for power games. In these cities, where the predominant culture was a mixed one resulting from miscegenation, an elite from the metropolis sought to assert itself, at the moment when it grew large enough to attempt to reconstruct the model that was in force on the other side of the ocean.

The next two articles show us, on the one hand, the occurrence of similar phenomena in other parts of the Empire and, on the other hand, new forms for the establishment of the colonial society in Brazil.

Diogo Ramada Curto (Notes on a Project for the city of Goa) presents us with a project that was itself presented in the Indian city in 1728 by the captain Diogo de Pinho Teixeira. This was a plan that proposed a reorganization of the city which would give it a more colonial appearance, apparently based on the model that regulated everyday life in the city of Batavia (209). For example, an attempt was made to ensure that greater respect was shown for Sunday as the day when shops were closed and trading would cease, the wearing of sensual clothing was condemned, and it was suggested that prostitutes should be confined within their own street; overall, the project displayed a profound sense of hierarchy and social differentiation (208). However, as the author himself stresses, this proposal was never even analyzed by the Goan authorities. At the end of 1730, almost three years after the presentation of the proposal, the viceroy wrote to Dom João V, saying that he hadn’t yet had time to analyze the document. This was an extremely clear answer—Teixeira’s ideas were of no interest to the powers that ruled over the city of Goa and the viceroy communicated this rejection by not finding the time, over a period lasting several months, to even devote his attention to the document.

In this way, Diogo de Pinho Teixeira’s project served, after all, to paint a negative picture of what the city of Goa was really like at the beginning of the second third of the 18th century – a city that was heavily marked, just like the other cities of the Empire, by phenomena resulting from miscegenation. As Ramada Curto says, Teixeira wished to impose an “idealized social order,” and his proposal undoubtedly had echoes of segregation and violence (216-217), but the way in which it was ignored by the authorities, including the viceroy, who would always be more sensitive to the ideas of the metropolis, shows us that, after all, the cultural, social, economic and even religious dynamics of the city, in which many of its members of Portuguese origin saw themselves reflected, were much more capable of integrating citizens than the Goa imagined by Diogo de Pinho Teixeira. At a time when the great colony of the Empire was situated on the shores of another ocean, Goa might have in its midst individuals who were more sensitive to an affirmation of European power, but its survival in the Indian and Asian context depended, as always, on the establishment of close links with the local people and an assimilation of their customs, even if remaining under the symbolic guidance of the principles of Christian society.

Diogo Ramada Curto concludes his text by criticizing those who refuse to think about different forms of colonial violence (221), bearing in mind examples such as that of the project under consideration in the article. Although, from a theoretical point of view, one should always hope that the societies of the past are studied without any preconceptions, and whilst it is certain that Teixeira’s text shows us a “racial” view of the empire, the fact remains that this “violent” proposal was not even discussed by the authorities of Goa. In the end, what this shows us therefore is that the powers that ruled over the Goan society of that time (including those who originated from the metropolis) rejected this model of “violence” and “racial superiority,” and that the elites preferred to cement their prominence and power through more subtle means.

Kirsten Schultz, on the other hand, shows us precisely how Teixeira’s project would have met with much greater acceptance in Brazil. In her study Sol oriens in occiduo: Representations of Empire and the City in Early Eighteenth-Century Brazil, she analyzes the emergence of the academies, the first of which was founded in Salvador, in 1724, a mere four years after the creation of the Academia Real da História (Royal Academy of History). This study does, in fact, show us an extremely important phenomenon in the development of Brazilian colonial society, throughout the 18th century, illustrating how it gradually drew closer to the status of a kingdom, which it was finally to achieve at the beginning of the 19th century. Schultz refers to the intense circulation of texts from the academies in both directions across the Atlantic, showing that in these years the Brazilian academies understood that their territory had gained supremacy in the context of the Portuguese Empire and were gradually acquiring a historical awareness. Schultz even states that, for the academicians, the celebration of the monarchy did not depend on references to Portugal (237). The Brazilian cities grew, strengthened and improved their equipment and infrastructures and turned themselves into important ceremonial spaces, and the author considers that, in the case of the commemorations held in Rio de Janeiro to celebrate the birth of the first-born son of Queen Dona Maria I, “the celebration of the monarchy was eclipsed by the celebration of the city itself” (247).

Whereas Brazil established itself as a space with its own power in the midst of the Empire and was heading towards achieving its own complete autonomy, on the other side of the Atlantic, another society was also seeking to find its own destiny, taking advantage of the winds of time, but adapted to its (still) small size, as is shown to us by Catarina Madeira Santos3 in her article entitled Luanda: a Colonial City between Africa and the Atlantic, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.

In this chapter, the author traces for us a brief synthesis of the history of this city since its foundation, stressing that, from the outset, Luanda was a colonial city with the attributes of a capital, whose evolution resulted from a permanent compromise between the local reality and the dynamics of the Portuguese Empire in the Atlantic. Recovering a model mapped out by Luís Filipe Thomaz, in relation to the State of India in the 16th century, Catarina Madeira Santos refers to Angola as a “network state”, in which Luanda played a crucial role in connecting the colonial world and the African world. Because of this, the foundation of the city was associated with the Portuguese penetration inland along the River Cuanza; furthermore, in this look into the history of the city, what stands out, as in so many of the other histories described in this volume, is its miscegenation, which was decisive in causing its inhabitants to seek refuge in the bush, at Massangano between 1641 and 1648, during the Dutch occupation of the city. According to the author, the elite of Luanda was formed from both white and mulatto families who had their roots in the first conquerors who had created the city and begun the exploration of the interior. The author then focuses her attention on the reforms introduced by the Marquis of Pombal to note that, on that occasion, there was a project of colonization that had as its objective to effect a genuine Europeanization of the local elite, in accordance with a civilizing ethnocentric logic. Even so, this process was accompanied by the desire to promote the development of the local people, with one of the most expressive examples being the creation of the class of Geometry and Fortification to be followed by white people and mulattoes alike. As the author states, an attempt was therefore made in this way to create a new elite that was capable of manipulating new forms of knowledge. It was the time when the word “Angolan” began to be used and when a local awareness, parallel (although different) to the one that was being built up in Brazil, was beginning to make the people of Luanda feel more and more distant from Portugal, but not from the king (261-262).

Finally, the author highlights the fact that the implementation of this project was only feasible with the participation of the mulattoes and she even notes that some governors recognized that it was easier to Africanize the Europeans than to Europeanize the Africans, which undoubtedly directs our attention to the structural characteristics of the History of the Portuguese Expansion in the Early Modern Age.

Catarina Madeira Santos ends her article by looking for the African side of the city and insisting that Luanda was structured like a city of people of mixed race, which could be seen in the everyday colonial routines (266-267). On this subject, she reminds us that many Portuguese spoke Kimbundu (which was the lingua franca) and that the children of the white people were brought up by black and mulatto women, being enveloped by their sounds and their imaginary; an obvious reality, but one that is frequently forgotten by authors and which, in the case of this volume, could well have been mentioned in many other chapters.

* * *

To conclude, it must be said that this work confirms already known topics, which are afforded some further systematization here. The different chapters clearly highlight the general characteristics of the Portuguese Empire, which enables us to understand many of its common components. These, in turn, direct our attention to the existence of a de facto model of the Portuguese imperial city, whose characteristics can be felt, however slightly, even in a city lying outside the Empire, such as Nagasaki, and which are also to be found in cities where the Portuguese authority was always highly controlled by the regional power, as happened in Macau.

Cities scattered around the peripheries of the Empire were, in their turn, new cities that revitalized trade, coordinated the colonization efforts while simultaneously making it possible for people to conform and adapt all too readily, and set up political centers and environments for diplomatic action. If these were dynamics that stood out very clearly in the group of texts as a whole, other characteristics were not so evident, such as the fact that almost all of them were important missionary centers and port cities, with an everyday life that was highly conditioned by the rhythms of shipping and by the existence, in many cases, of shipyards, capable of performing ship repairs or even shipbuilding.

Through the successive examples that are provided, the book also shows that the cities were centers of miscegenation, and that serious and repeated efforts were made to attract native people and to open the cities up to many of their habits. The intermingling with the local women had significant political consequences, since, for all the continents, the Portuguese living in these cities were, most of the time, the offspring of Portuguese and overseas parents, with extremely strong affective, linguistic and cultural ties with the land of their birth and with their relatives on their mother’s side. With the passing of the years, the evolution of these mixed race groups (both ethnically and culturally) led them to feel the voice of their homeland and their “Portugueseness” ceased to be a primordial feature of their identity. However, the connection with Portugal was maintained through their loyalty to the king, for this was, after all, the source of their identity and the legitimization of the powers of the local authorities.

The passing of time saw the gradual idealization of white colonial societies, over and above the locally born population, which could better legitimize the ever larger white elites in the 18th-century overseas world. This growth in the numbers of people originating from the metropolis was particularly evident in Brazil, and it was there that a more clearly colonialist discourse began to be developed, although the bishop of Rio de Janeiro continued to tolerate the batuques, at the end of the 18th century. However, further East, whether in Luanda or in Goa, the same ideas came up against the intransigence of the local reality. Without the mass emigration that there had been to Brazil, these cities were not sensitive to the proposals originating from the more ethnocentric sectors—the reforms of the Marquis of Pombal favored the mulattoes and Diogo de Pinho Teixeira’s proposal remained forever locked away in the drawer.


1See Luís Filipe Thomaz, “A estrutura política e administrativa do Estado da Índia no século XVI” in De Ceuta a Timor, Carnaxide, Difel, 1994, pp. 207-244.
2Sino-Japanese pirates operating in the China Sea from the 13th to the 17th century.
3 For reasons that are unknown to me, the author is presented as having a PhD from the École des Hautes Études, which is not entirely correct, given that she obtained the degree under a system of joint supervision between the École and the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Her public examination did in fact take place in Lisbon, and I myself belonged to the jury that evaluated and approved her doctoral thesis.



Copyright 2009, ISSN 1645-6432
e-JPH, Vol.7, number 2, Winter 2009




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