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Creolization and diaspora in the Portuguese Indies [electronic resource] : the social world of Ayutthaya, 1640-1720 /
by Stefan Halikowski Smith.
Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2011.
xiii, 456 p. : ill., map ; 25 cm.
9004190481 (hbk. : alk. paper), 9789004190481 (hbk. : alk. paper)
More Details
Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2011.
9004190481 (hbk. : alk. paper)
9789004190481 (hbk. : alk. paper)
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. [407]-439) and index.
A Look Inside
First Chapter
ABSTRACT The issue of decline in the wake of a short-lived but intense golden age of the Portuguese Empire in the East has been a very difficult one for Portuguese historiography traditionally to confront, although recently voices have called for a reappraisal, arguing that it is possible to perceive something of a renascence or a `second wave’ under the House of Braganza between 1640-1683, with contemporaries even entertaining parallels to Emperor Trajan’s rejuvenation of the decrepit Roman empire (98-117 A.D.). Indeed, rather than seeing desperate communities of expatriated Europeans clinging on to ever receding territorial landholdings, attention can be drawn to visions of population movements consolidating and invigorating existent colonies, with bold plans to move large numbers of Indians into Mozambique, to send exiled Portuguese to populate Solor, alongside the ad-hoc implantation of sizeable new settlements in mainland south-east Asia. Furthermore, the nature of imperial society is largely misunderstood from the yardstick of sixteenth century realities -- the vast majority of `Portuguese’ were no longer soldiers, missionaries or officials sent out to the Estado da Índia, but dark-skinned mestiços who had never been to Portugal, who appropriated certain items of Portuguese dress such as hats whilst neglecting others such as shoes, and were Christians out of status reasons rather than conviction. Indeed, their greatest claim to being `Portuguese’ was often not via their blood, but the creolised dialects they spoke. This was particularly true of the `Shadow Empire’, a vast but obscure umbra of Portuguese influence beyond Cape Comorin that largely operated outside the formal imperial mechanisms embodied by the Estado da Índia and that had little claim to be a world forged by the `children of Albuquerque’, and rather more one forged by the `children of Francis Xavier’. This is a study of the communitarian dynamics of the Portuguese `tribe’, to use a concept employed by the historian Leonard Andaya, in Ayutthaya, a massive urban river-state constructed in the name of the legendary king R?ma, estimated in 1700 at as much as one million souls, and situated on the banks of the `rapidly flowing’ Chao Phraya river in Siam `fifty leagues’ inland from the coast. It was a remarkably cosmopolitan city, one French observer counting twenty different national communities. Each was settled in a different quarter (what the Thai called Mu ban (????????) and what the Portuguese called campos) just outside the city wall, attracted by an enlightened form of kingship that measured its success in terms of the size of its population rather than its territory. The ruling monarch, addressed by Europeans as `Il più Magnifico’, was considered the most important in Asia after the Emperor of China and the Great Moghul. The Portuguese had come here primarily as free-trading merchants and mercenaries from the early sixteenth century, and the population grew to as much as 5-6000 souls, swollen by the diaspora of Portuguese displaced first from Melaka in 1641, and then from Makassar in the 1660s. Sizeable, but overlooked by scholars of seventeenth-century Siam who like to end the history of the Portuguese presence in monsoon Asia with the fall of Melaka, dismissing the Portuguese thereafter as `beachcombers’ and `vagrants’. But they too have their story to tell. Perhaps most evidently, the community was wracked by rivalries with other nationalities (in the first half of the seventeenth century principally the Dutch, thereafter principally the French), who constructed alliances with other groups (Japanese, Cochinchinese) to further their different agendas and proximity to the royal court. The story of the Portuguese community is illuminated here by a number of different sources, some of which has only been recently brought to light, and much of which will appear here for the first time: diplomatic and ecclesiastical correspondence from the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino in Lisbon; the papers surrounding the diplomatic visit of Lopes Vaz de Siqueira from Macao in 1684, and the Thai preparations to send a reciprocal embassy to Lisbon in 1686 (shipwrecked off the southeast coast of Africa) ; archeological excavations instigated by the Gulbenkian Foundation on one of the sites of an early Portuguese church; a host of temple murals from northern Thailand and eastern Burma. These sources are supplemented by copious religious reports (Letterae Annuae), accounts of visiting travellers and commercial notes, both Dutch, French, Portuguese and English. Use is made of the extensive French correspondence following the implantation of the Missions Étrangères de Paris order in Siam from 1662: many of the documents written in conjunction with the embassy of Lopes Vaz de Siqueira simply do not make sense unless they are juxtaposed with developments in the French mission. Unfortunately, the great mass of Thai documentation relating to the Ayutthaya period largely perished in the convulsions surrounding the Burmese invasion of 1767. Using all the available detail, a micro-study of this misunderstood population emerges, an imperial space that ultimately has very little do with empire, more to do with Macau than Goa, but overwhelmingly generated by local considerations. The book concludes with an investigation of how the Portuguese came to be almost universally reviled by the end of the seventeenth century -- `the worst and most lewd livers in Siam’ according to the English; according to Thai records (speaking here of the Portuguese who had arrived from Makassar) `those (...) who occupy the lowest category here’ – while their fortunes fared considerably better in neighbouring Cambodia and Burma . The `extreme poverty’ suffered by the Portuguese settlers in Siam observed by the French missionaries can be understood in part by a royal monopoly on the exercise of trade that left the Portuguese without sufficient livelihoods. However, despite the mercurial historical transience of many bandéis elsewhere in the Indian Ocean world, the Portuguese community in Siam lived through the hard years of the Phetracha regime, cutting out for its members certain niche occupations, and managed consequently to survive right through to the nineteenth century.
Review Quotes
[...] Halikowski-Smith's work should be highly recommended to students and speialists who wish to understand the continued presence of the Portuguese in Southeast Asia and their creolization process throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Sim H. Teddy, Anais de História de Além-Mar, No. 12, 2011, 387-388 pp.
This item was reviewed in:
Reference & Research Book News, December 2011
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Bowker Data Service Summary
This title provides an original study of the sizeable Portuguese community in Ayutthaya, the chief river-state in Siam, during a period of apparent decline (1640-1720).
Description for Reader
All those interested in the history of European empires in the East, their settlement patterns and cultural transfer. This book is aimed specifically at specialists in Portuguese overseas and South-East Asian history, focusing on the period building up to the National Revolution in Siam of 1688.
Main Description
This book provides an original study of the sizeable Portuguese community in Ayutthaya, the chief river-state in Siam, during a period of apparent decline (1640-1720). Portuguese populations were displaced from their chief settlements like Melaka and Makassar, and attracted to the river-states of mainland South-East Asia by a protective model of kingship, hopes of international trade and the opportunity to harvest souls. A variety of sources will be used to shed light on the fortunes and make-up of this displaced, mixed-race tribe, which was largely independent of the matrices of Portuguese colonial power, and fared poorly alongside other foreign communities in this remarkably open, dynamic environment. Circumstances changed for the better after the National Revolution of 1688, when Portuguese started to fill many of the jobs at court and in commerce previously occupied by Frenchmen and northern Europeans.

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