Vie scientifique | Invités du CEIAS



(Professeur invité de l'EHESS) Vasco da Gama Professor,  European University Institute, Florence

Mai 2015

Jorge Flores is Vasco da Gama Professor at the European University Institute, Florence, since 2010. Previously he has taught in several universities, namely Brown University and the University of Macau. He specializes in the social and cultural history of the Portuguese Empire, and is interested in the history of empires and the global history of the early modern era. Flores works on Portuguese and other European interactions with Asian Societies in the period, and he often researches Western materials related to South Asia to approach the history of the region.


Flores has two books coming out in 2016: Unwanted Neighbours: The Portuguese, the Mughals, and their Frontiers (New Delhi, OUP); and The Mughal Padshah: A Jesuit Treatise on Emperor Jahangir’s Court and Household (Leiden, Brill). Among his publications are:

- Os Portugueses e o Mar de Ceilão, 1498-1543: trato, diplomacia e guerra (Lisbon: Cosmos, 1998)

- Os Olhos do Rei: Desenhos e Descrições Portuguesas da Ilha de Ceilão (1624, 1638) (Lisbon: CNCDP, 2001).

- A Taprobana e a Ponte de Rama. Estudos sobre os Portugueses em Ceilão e na Índia do Sul(Macau: IPOR, 2004).

- (with Nuno Vassallo e Silva, eds.) Goa and the Great Mughal(Lisbon and London: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and Scala Publishers, 2004, 2011).

- (ed.) Re-Exploring the Links: History and Constructed Histories Between Portugal and Sri Lanka, (Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz Verlag and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2007).

- (with Rudi Matthee, eds.) Portugal, the Persian Gulf and Safavid Persia, (Leuven, Peeters, 2011)


List and description of seminars




Broadly speaking, the present seminar intends to study the “venues” for, and multiple forms of, political debate and contest in an early modern imperial setting. Focus will be put on the Portuguese empire and one will particularly look at the ways in which fictional writings – fictive letters, and especially imagined dialogues – mirrored and triggered such debates and tensions in the seventeenth century. Needless to say, the dialogic form was deeply rooted in Western culture from Antiquity to the Renaissance and it is also known that this literary device had a sizeable impact in early modern Iberia, making its way into Portugal’s overseas empire and respective cultural practices. Among many other examples, we count imagined dialogues on (Portuguese) language (João de Barros, 1540; Pero de Magalhães Gândavo, 1574), as well as on science (Dom João de Castro, before 1538), medicine (Garcia de Orta, 1563), religion (Father Manuel da Nóbrega, 1558) and painting (Francisco de Holanda, 1548).

While building on this context and set of rich precedents, the seminar will alternatively offer a close reading of four “political” dialogues penned in the first half of the seventeenth-century that critically discuss imperial policies spanning different continents. Together with the celebrated Diálogo do Soldado Prático by Diogo do Couto (in fact, two different dialogues, the second dated 1611-12), and the Diálogos das Grandezas do Brasil by Ambósio Fernandes Brandão (1618), I will be presenting two lesser known pieces related to Sri Lanka: Dom Filipe Botelho’s Jornada de Uva ordenada a maneira de dialogo (1633) and the anonymous Jornada do Reino de Uva (1635). I am currently preparing with Maria Augusta Lima Cruz an annotated critical edition of these two Jornadas.




Early modern Western visual culture was strongly impacted by the “imperial factor”. Distance was partly negotiated through images, since – either for political and economic business, or for the sake of curiosity - the members of the political, mercantile and cultural elites who did not travel outside Europe wanted and needed to “see” those faraway places and peoples. On the other hand, and along with their writings, travelers, soldiers, administrators, scientists and missionaries engaged in an overseas career, often drew to visually convey and “translate” their experiences. Some even made only pictures, and felt no need whatsoever to write.

The production and dissemination of visual materials on Africa, America and Asia in early modern Europe constitutes a rather complex problem. There are many issues to be taken into account, such as the interplay between word and image, the nature of a given image (European? “native”? both?), or the form of the images in question (manuscript? printed?). One has also to address the tricky issue of authorship, for numerous images equally belonged to their authors, engravers, publishers, collectors and readers; different people who perceived those pictures differently, transforming them in myriad ways. Do images show reality or do they represent a constructed reality, according to a multiplicity of agendas at stake? And, if one wants to look at the reverse side of this topic, how were European images perceived, appropriated and manipulated by non-European societies? While this seminar won’t fully answer these and other relevant questions, I believe that a thorough discussion of the Portuguese case can add some complexity to the ongoing debate about early modern visuality. When compared to other European imperial powers, the Portuguese undoubtedly produced little visual materials and have printed them even less. But they drew puzzling ones, which deserve to be discussed in the framework of a global early modern history of images.




Manuel Godinho de Erédia was born in Malacca either in 1558 or in 1563 and died in Goa ca. 1623. The son of a Portuguese soldier and a Malay “princess”, Erédia was a mestizo and a somewhat puzzling figure in the context of Portuguese Asia, one that has been attracting the attention of scholars since the second half of the 19th century. Professionally, he became simultaneously cartographer and cosmographer, ethnographer and chronicler, mathematician, botanist and mineralogist, painter and about-to-be Jesuit missionary, genealogist and biblist, soldier and military engineer with an interest in shipbuilding. Erédia’s production is thus extensive and diversified, mostly geographical treatises, “informations”, “discourses” and a considerable number of maps; writing, petitioning and drawing were at the core of his professional and intellectual life.

The present seminar intends to reconsider the figure of Erédia and analyze the rather complex profile of a multifaceted and eccentric man who found himself at the crossroads of several cultural traditions. Erédia hold a multiple, composite identity, between his Malay ancestry, his European (and Jesuit) education and his long experience as a Portuguese resident of Goa, familiar with its cultural and political elite. He therefore constitutes the model of someone who managed to live between worlds (geographic, cultural, social), mastering the dominant cultural debates in Europe and its social and political conventions. Notwithstanding, Erédia never visited Europe and was able to skillfully combine such strong Western background with direct knowledge of Asian cultures, namely the Malay world and South Asia. Ultimately, the study of Manuel Godinho de Erédia and of his work may contribute to a more balanced view about the ways in which knowledge was produced and circulated between different cultural zones of the early modern world.




Studies about the European visions of the Mughal empire during its “golden age” (Akbar to Aurangzeb) have fundamentally concentrated on two main topics, anchored in two different sets of texts. The first focus has been on the Jesuit missions to the court of the “Great Mughal” and their writings. The second line of research has concentrated on the commercial race to reach the Mughal empire at a time when European trading companies came to the fore. To research the latter subject, covering the last twenty years of Akbar’s rule and above all pertinent to the reign of Jahangir, one usually explores a group of seventeenth-century texts penned by authors coming from Protestant Europe. English observers established their hegemony in this field and there can be no denying that Sir Thomas Roe’s embassy to Jahangir’s court in 1615-19 (and resulting sources) played a decisive role in formatting the Western knowledge about the Mughal Empire. European flashy texts on the Mughals continued to be produced, published and circulated throughout the 17th century, the apex of such phenomenon being François Bernier’s account of the Mughal War of Sucession of 1656-1658 and subsequent rise of Emperor Aurangzeb.

Side by side with such rich European imagery of Mughal India, somewhat “poorer” authors were writing “alternative” texts which seem to have circulated through unflashy circuits and were far from achieving Bernier’s fame. Numerous Portuguese materials in manuscript form fall into this category, but one should not essentialize this category, as many non-Portuguese texts can also be considered here, from the “Relatione dell’Imperio Indico del Gran Mogul” penned by one of the celebrated Vechietti brothers in 1623 to the anonymous “Partenza del Re Gran Mogor della Citta d’Agra per la Citta di Laor”, written by a native of Piemonte in 1638 and richly describing the moving of Shahjahan’s court to the latter city. Other pieces, such as “hybrid texts” – Mughal materials disguised as European and often housed in the so-called European archive –, should also be studied along these lines and will be discussed in this seminar.


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