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Weaving a Global Trade Pattern: The Portuguese Role in the Globalisation on Asian Textiles, 1500–1800

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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Comparative Global History book series (PASTCGH)

Abstract

On November 7th 1615, the East Indiaman Nossa Senhora da Luz shipwrecked off the coast of the Azorean island of Faial, but most of her cargo was salvaged during the following weeks. The salvage, carried by local authorities, revealed the extent of the precious stones smuggled aboard, especially diamonds, and, what is relevant for us, the quantity of Asian textiles washed ashore, more than 26,000 pieces (Bettencourt 2008, p. 55; Viana 1999, pp. 105, 113, 117).

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Fig. 1

(© Nationalmuseet https://samlinger.natmus.dk/ES/asset/25493)

Fig. 2

(© DGPC/LJF, Luí Piorro)

Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Notes

  1. 1.

    Portugal and Spain shared the same sovereign during this period, known as “Union of the Crowns”, though politically and institutionally the two kingdoms remained separate polities.

  2. 2.

    The Crown leased the Carreira da Índia to private investors in exchange for money in a three-year contract from around 1554 to 1614. At first the whole operation was leased, and then in separate parts (shipping, pepper, spices, etc.), see Cunha (2009).

  3. 3.

    Comprising Peru until the beginning of the seventeenth century. About this subject see also the essay by Arturo Giráldez, “The Last Link of an Emergent Global Economy: The Manila Galleon” in this volume.

  4. 4.

    Whose thesis defends that the New Christians businessmen were outnumbered by their Old Christians rivals in Lisbon and Bahia after 1660.

  5. 5.

    There is, however, research carried on some Asian producing centers, or products, see for example: Cunha and Ferreira (2019, pp. 103–104), Cristóvão (2018), Karl (2016), Ferreira (2013, pp. 46–55), and Barreto (2001).

  6. 6.

    “License of Afonso de Albuquerque” Goa 12.06.1514, Mendonça (1915, p. 97).

  7. 7.

    “Afonso de Albuquerque to King” Goa 23.10.1514, Pato (1884, pp. 296–297).

  8. 8.

    Man, an Indian weight equivalent to 12.2 kgs in Cambay and Diu.

  9. 9.

    From the Arabic fadda, coined in Egypt, but it was a currency of account used in Gujarat.

  10. 10.

    From the Arabic fârsala, worthing 8,262 kgs.

  11. 11.

    The two were closely linked, as in 1609, when not a single bale of indigo or of Gujarati textiles reached Goa to go to Lisbon, ‘Letter of viceroy Rui Lourenço de Távora to King Philip II’ Goa 08.12.1609 in Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal (henceforth BNP) (Lisbon), Fundo Geral, cod. 1975, fls. 316–318.

  12. 12.

    ‘Imports of Indian indigo to Portugal’, Lisbon 16.01.1620 in Arquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo (henceforth ANTT) (Lisbon), Miscelâneas Manuscritas do Convento da Graça, caixa 3, 6.º D, fl. 321. For an overview of the indigo trade carried by the Portuguese see Cunha (1995, pp. 407–412); and for the trade of the Guatemalan production see Zamora (2017, pp. 584–607).

  13. 13.

    ‘Order of Philip II’, Lisbon 27.03.1617 in BNP, Fundo Geral, cod. 2702, fls. 67v-68v.

  14. 14.

    But the total invested in the following year amounted to twice that figure, 81,377,600 réis, though the general tendency of the period was to decrease the investment made in spices.

  15. 15.

    Law of Philip II, Goa 13.08.1607 in BNP, Fundo Geral, cod. 2702, fls. 48–51.

  16. 16.

    Law of Philip II, Goa 13.08.1607 in BNP, Fundo Geral, cod. 2702, fls. 49–51.

  17. 17.

    ‘Copy of the roll of the commodities aboard the nau Nossa Senhora da Luz’, Faial 09.12.1615 in Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino, (henceforth AHU), Caixas da Índia, n.º 4 [3A], doc. 152. For this period see Afzal Ahmad, Indo-Portuguese Trade in Seventeenth Century (1600–1663), New Dlhi: Gyan Publishing House, 1991, chapter 4. Portuguese Trade in Textiles, pp. 90–109.

  18. 18.

    ‘Book of the receipt of the commodities coming from the Estado da Índia aboard the ship Santo António e Justiça’ in AHU, cod. 682, fls. 3v, 4, 5, 6-6v, 7, 911v, 12, 13, 13v-14, 14v-18, 19, 21, 21v-25. It is very difficult to bind the name of a textile to its likeness, since we have little or no iconographic sources to help identify them, so most of the time we don’t know how these fabrics looked like. For the names see also Luz (1968).

  19. 19.

    In 1614–1615, for example, the war with the Mughals meant that no fabrics from Gujarat or Sind arrived at Goa to supply the ships of the Carreira, so alternative sources had to be found in the Deccan (Bijapur), though of a coarser quality ‘Letter of D. fr. Cristóvão de Lisboa to Philip II’, Goa 05.02.1615 in AHU, Caixas da Índia, cx. 3, doc. 46.

  20. 20.

    On the vitality and characteristics of the Indian textile industry, namely the putting-out or domestic system behind its production, see Riello and Roy (2013).

  21. 21.

    The viceroy count of Linhares estimated in more than three million the number of deaths in the Mughal Empire alone in 1630–1631; cf. Letter of viceroy to Philip III, Goa 11.08.1631 in ANTT, Livros das Monções, n.º 29, fl. 75.

  22. 22.

    ‘Letter of Francisco de Lucena to Philip III’, Goa 30.12.1633 in AHU, Caixas da Índia, n.º [10], doc. 105.

  23. 23.

    ‘Commodities sent in the 1616 fleet’, Goa 06.01.1617 in AHU, Caixas da Índia, n.º [4A], doc. 136.

  24. 24.

    Kept in the National Museum of Denmark, Etnographic Collection, Copenhagen (Inv. EN38 A7 and EN 38 A8).

  25. 25.

    Coelho Guerreiro ended his official career in Asia, as governor of Timor (1702–1705), and during his sojourn in the Estado he traded mostly in Indian textiles.

  26. 26.

    Livro da Recâmara dos Reis D. João III e de D. Catarina, Biblioteca da Ajuda (Lisbon), cod. 50-V-26, fl. 54v.

  27. 27.

    ANTT, Núcleo Antigo, nº 790, “Catalina de Austria, Inventario de joyas y guardaropa, 15 de Mayo de 1528”, fl. 93.

  28. 28.

    Damião de Góis, a Portuguese humanist and diplomat, used the expression exotic in the sixteenth century as a synonym of things coming from abroad, either European or non-European; cf. Simões (2014, pp. 517–525).

  29. 29.

    ANTT, Corpo Cronológico, parte. 1, maço 10, docs. 10 and 116;.maço 11, doc. 127 and parte II, maço 36, doc. 10.

  30. 30.

    Letter of Philip III to the Governors of Portugal, Barcelona 31.031626; Letter of Philip III for the Governors of Portugal, Madrid 18.11.1626, in Boletim (1960, pp. 470, 497).

  31. 31.

    Tinoco traded in Chinese silk when he was in Macao, and was agent of Queen Isabel, the wife of Phiilp III (r. 1621–1640), to whom he sent Asian exotica and spices.

  32. 32.

    “Liberdade” is an amount of cargo that the ship crew and other privileged people were allowed to ship aboard East Indiamen, as an extra. Others, mainly aristocrats, like the descendants of Vasco da Gama and the Dukes of Braganza, were entitled to bring an annual amount of commodities from Asia free of charge.

  33. 33.

    The Dutch wanted Chinese fermented teas, as the European taste in the eighteenth century had moved from the Japanese green tea to the “black tea”.

  34. 34.

    BNP, Fundo Geral, cod. 550, fl. 270v.

  35. 35.

    Though Chinese and Bengali silk remained important commodities traded with Europe.

  36. 36.

    The ship arrived at Lisbon in June 1755 and most of its cargo was still in the Customs when the earthquake in the 1st of November destroyed everything; ANTT, Junta do Comércio, book 74, fls. 37v-38; “Letter of the Casa da Índia to the Customs of Rio de Janeiro” Lisbon 10.02.1756, Documentação (1966, p. 283).

  37. 37.

    BNP, Fundo Geral, cod. 550, fl. 104.

  38. 38.

    BNP, Fundo Geral, cod. 550, fl. 223v.

  39. 39.

    Macao’s Senado tried to establish a company to trade directly to Brazil in 1732 and again in 1734, bypassing Goa and Lisbon, in order to obtain silver and tobacco in exchange for silk and other Chinese merchandise like porcelain. The Crown refused the plan twice, but the route was eventually established in the early nineteenth century; cf. Rego (1995, pp. 7–30).

  40. 40.

    Letter of Giovanni Francesco Muzzi to Francisco Pinheiro, Rio de Janeiro 28.02.1722, Lisanti (1973a, pp. 248–249).

  41. 41.

    Letter of Francisco Pinheiro to Manuel Nunes and Francisco da Cunha Freitas, Lisbon 31.03.1725, Lisanti (1973b, p. 523).

  42. 42.

    Letter of Giovanni Francesco Muzzi to Francisco Pinheiro, Rio de Janeiro 28.02.1722, Lisanti (1973a, p. 268).

  43. 43.

    List of the investors in the ship São Pedro e São João, Lisbon 30.03.1742, Documentação (1966, pp. 156–157).

  44. 44.

    Consultation of the Ultramarine Council, Lisbon 13.01.1703 in AHU, Caixas da Índia, n.º [44], doc. 5.

  45. 45.

    AHU, cod. 682, fl. 4. We don’t know what are Coromandel “gargares” or “morim”, nor do we know how they looked like.

  46. 46.

    AHU, cod. 682, fl. 16v. “Kaffir cloth” is mentioned already in the sixteenth century, and “folhinha” [little leaf] was one of the most traded Indian printed cottons in seventeenth century Angola, as seen in the ledger book of António Coelho Guerreiro.

  47. 47.

    Known figures for the beginning of the nineteenth century reveal its magnitude. In 1810, for example, Rio de Janeiro imported 506,723,400 réis of Asian commodities from Goa, of which 98.7% was textiles; and three years later, in 1813, the value was 577,966,890 réis (with 97.3% corresponding to fabrics). Perhaps as much as two thirds of it on average was used to buy slaves, but there were other sources of supply. Luanda obtained textiles directly from Portugal, Europe and Goa, besides Brazil. In 1808, for instance, Luanda received fabrics from Goa valued at 306,447,600 réis, while those from Portugal amounted to 194,073,165 réis and those from Europe at 107,055,550 réis; Florentino (2014, pp. 131–132).

  48. 48.

    AHU, cod. 491, fls. 4–43.

  49. 49.

    AHU, cod. 491, fl. 43.

  50. 50.

    AHU, cod. 1150, fls. 8–13.

  51. 51.

    Letter of Pierre-Philippe Rocquefeuil to George Duval de Leyrit, Mahé 04.03.1755, in British Historical Society of Portugal, (Carcavelos), Gallwey Papers, “Copie des lettres”, p. 21.

  52. 52.

    AHU, cod. 682, ff. 3v, 7v, 9, 11.

  53. 53.

    See for example, the cargo list of the ships Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres, S. Joseph, Rey de Portugal and Santa Anna Raynha de Portugal, 4 Setembro de 1756, Museu do Oriente, Lisbon (Inv. ASIA 09:339 LIS).

  54. 54.

    Chintz pervades all interiors, from the aristocratic interiors to more humble abodes. While richer houses have India chintzes worthing 2,200 réis in average, homes with lower incomes have an average of 720 réis invested in these textiles (Madureira 1989, p. 98) (Watt 2013, p. 87). We lack similar studies for other cities in Portugal and in her empire as well, to know how Asian textiles were distributed, transported and sold, and who consumed them as well.

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Teles e Cunha, J., Ferreira, M.J. (2021). Weaving a Global Trade Pattern: The Portuguese Role in the Globalisation on Asian Textiles, 1500–1800. In: Dobado-González, R., García-Hiernaux, A. (eds) The Fruits of the Early Globalization. Palgrave Studies in Comparative Global History. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-69666-5_8

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