Afonso de Albuquerque between kings: selection of gifts and the dynamics of Portuguese-Indian diplomacy
Paper short abstract:
As governor of Portuguese India (1509-1515), Albuquerque used a coherent political strategy in which diplomacy always preceded war. This paper examines how the need for unexpected diplomatic exchanges influenced the selection of gifts and what meanings where imbued in that material culture.
Paper long abstract:
Although Albuquerque is mostly known for his military deeds, his letters to King Manuel suggest that he also devised a coherent diplomatic strategy in India during his term as governor (1509-1515). This was a moment when there was a marked quickening of pace in Portuguese-Indian relations. Given the limited knowledge available on the Asian reality and in the absence of instructions from Portugal, the governor was forced to develop himself a rapid understanding of the local practices. This paper examines the policies of gift-giving in the context of the first contacts between Portugal and the Indian states through the assessment of the gifts given and received by Afonso de Albuquerque and the analysis of the staging of gift exchange situations. It attempts to identify the various protagonists in the selection of the gifts given as well as analyze how the gifts that Albuquerque received were redistributed or converted into other gifts. This paper argues that these gifts are paramount to the understanding of the Portuguese perception of Asian material culture in the early 16th century; it will also contribute to the discussion of the development of new policy of gift-giving, specific to the new geography in which Albuquerque was acting.
Global gifts: material culture and diplomatic exchange in the Early Modern world