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1 A New Perception of the World: Portuguese Indian Ocean Space and Colombo Taking over Colombo in the early sixteenth century, the Portuguese brought the island they called Ceilão (English, Ceylon) and its inhabitants into direct contact with south-western Europe. In so doing they drew the island and its peoples into what turned out to be the long term processes of European colonialism and European expansion. At the same time, the Portuguese also extended the European political and trading worlds into the Indian Ocean region, producing very large spaces such as what Charles Boxer terms the “Portuguese seaborne empire” and what I shall call the “Portuguese Indian Ocean space.” Despite their short-term changes, 1 any serious examination of the Portuguese construction of Colombo needs to acknowledge the larger spatial and temporal structures and systems of which this outpost was a part. As I argue below, these Portuguese spatial practices were conceived as part of a new perception of the world society and space developed in Europe, and can be called a spatial revolution. In this chapter, I explore the spatial revolution of the late fifteenth century, examining the Portuguese construction of a new Indian Ocean space, its structure, organization, nodes, and subjects, and focussing on Colombo. The Spatial Revolution of the Late Fifteenth Century Henri Lefebvre asserts that “A revolution that does not produce new space has not realized its full potential.” 2 The late fifteenth century expeditions of Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus to “India” marked the turning point of a spatial revolution, first for Iberian rulers and Italian traders, and then for west European powers. The processes that led to and resulted from these Iberian voyages transformed the world (for them) from a neutral macrocosm within which various human societies existed into a single space in which their own activities were to predominate. In the words of J.H. Parry, “Between 1420 and 1620 Europeans 17


Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

learned that all seas are one; that seamen, given adequate ships and stores, skills and courage, could in time reach any country in the world which had an ocean coast and--what is more important--return home.” 3 Moreover, the European powers began to develop a relationship between this new world space and their various social, political, economic structures and activities, constructing a particular perception of the world as the central element of their social space. This finite space was not only knowable but also controllable and transformable, especially where it concerned long-distance trade. Samir Amin argues, If the period of the Renaissance marks a qualitative break in the history of humanity, it is precisely because, from that time on, Europeans became conscious of the idea that the conquest of the world by their civilization is henceforth a possible objective. They therefore developed a sense of absolute superiority, even if the actual submission of other peoples to Europe has not yet taken place.4 The most significant aspect of this spatial revolution was the Iberian development of a capacity to initiate world-scale spatial practices based on their perception of the world as a globe. Although starting from the same place, the Iberian peninsula, the launching of the da Gama and Columbus journeys in opposite directions, but with the same destination, “India,” demonstrated this capacity. By globe, I refer not only to its physical and geometrical qualities such as singularity, three-dimensionality, and finiteness, but also to certain cultural and political traits such as knowability, definability, and controllability. In this way, the Iberian powers established direct contacts across the oceans, between Europe, the Americas and Asia. This new perception undermined previous European as well as other “worldviews,” 5 the way in which a particular people characteristically perceive their world, especially in regard to notions of centrality and directionality of space. For example, the societies of the Mediterranean, China, Burma, Rome, and Kandy each located the center of the “world,” in their own territory, as their etymology, nomenclature, and discourses indicate. 6 The “worlds” perceived did not represent the whole earth, nor did they represent a bounded area of the earth, but were limited to what was conceived of by the “center.” Iberian missions, however, transformed the once endless, perceptually flat, two dimensional world with fixed cardinal directions into a closed three-dimensional physical sphere. This perception of the world would undermine the fixity of those centers, the definition of their domains, the larger “universes” within which they were located, the narratives concerning these, and each society’s relation with others. The Portuguese and the Spanish thus began to establish and define new power centers, regions, locales, and communication networks. The Portuguese objective was to do away with the middle-man and establish direct contact with the sources of spices in the East. The King of Portugal issued specific instructions to this effect and, in the sixteenth century, the authorities in

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space


Portuguese India tried their best to bring it about.7 W hat unified this Portuguese world was the sea. Transporting spices across the sea from Asia to Europe was also a radically new idea since every route the Asian exports had taken had an overland component to it. Establishing the fact that the Indian Ocean was not a land-locked sea and that traveling around the African continent could bring them to “India” was a crucial breakthrough. The Iberian missions, in turn, reinforced the construction of a new European knowledge of the world giving rise to new disciplines and spatial perceptions. A key instrument here is the map that organized and re-presented geographic knowledge laid out in a geometrical framework provided by a grid of meridians and parallels. As early as 1502, the Contine world map recorded the geographic information developed by da Gama’s voyage. 8 Although the maps produced by the second century geographer of Alexandria, Claudius Ptolemy, served as the basis, the world mapped during this period was radically different. The new knowledge replaced a whole range of ancient European beliefs, including those of Ptolemy, that Ceylon was a large island located in the middle of the Ocean and that China bordered on Germany.9 Using this knowledge, the Portuguese not only charted the oceans but also developed the sciences of navigation and hydrography initiating a whole new era of world-scale spatial practices.10 As Jean Baudrillard has argued, as soon as the “Other” can be represented, it can be appropriated and controlled. 11 New dimensions of the world dismantled the cardinal directions and erased the spatial inscriptions of old power centers. Placing Europe firmly in the middle of the world map and naturalizing it through the institutionalization of a prime meridian and a dateline--later, by west European powers--produced a modern but familiar world for them. Such a map would provide both geometrical and power based frameworks within which to locate existing places, as well as new places that were yet to be “discovered.” Such a conception, including the definability, predictability, and controllability of social space, produced a European competence to expand its social, political, economic, and cultural authority over that space. In producing a centralized world, 12 west European powers eventually constructed radically different forms of spatial boundaries, frontiers, centrality, and marginality. In the process, the historical space of west European supremacy was invented through the naming, ordering, and classifying of places and, most crucially, the bringing of this knowledge into cultural circulation in Europe. W orld space was represented as something that could be read and explored, 13 and, in the long run, re-structured. In the future, any child brought up in this context, whether in Europe or Ceylon, would automatically learn that western Europe occupies the center of the world. The world perceived by the Iberians and the Vatican in the late fifteenth century, as viewed from Europe, was comprised of two principal zones: Europe and the extra-European world. The division of the extra-European world between the Spanish and the Portuguese for economic and religious purposes had begun decades before the da Gama and Columbus expeditions. Already in the 1450s, Papal Bulls had consecrated Portuguese imperialism.14 Going far beyond the immediate conflict


Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

with the M uslims, the Papal Bull of 1455, Roman Pontifex, authorized Prince Henry of Portugal to subdue and convert whatever “pagans” may be encountered in the regions lying between Morocco and the “Indies,” even if untainted by Muslim influence. The Portuguese clearly avoided European warfare but used “war technology” developed there to expand in the extra-European arena. The extra-European world was not only perceived but also represented by the Iberians as an endless homogenous space called “India.” According to Boxer, only a few people in early fifteenth century Europe had a clear definition of “the Indies;” “the term ‘India’ and ‘the Indies’ were often vaguely applied to any unknown and mysterious region to the east and south of the Mediterranean.” 15 Although gradually declining in its extent, almost all European imperial powers produced their empires in “India.” The Portuguese called their empire in the East, all their trading posts, fortresses, and settlements between the southern tip of Africa and Japan, Estado da India--the State of India. Similarly, the Spaniards constructed their Indian Empire in the “Americas,” calling their first institution of colonial administration the Casa de la Contratación de les Indies. As part of the construction of this space, the Iberians produced subjects within it, naming the inhabitants of these territories “Indians” and their own people engaged in overseas work, “Indiamen.” Later, the Dutch and British modified this notion to the extent of distinguishing between the East and W est Indies, and the Dutch creating the East and W est India Companies in the early 1600s. The whole region east of the Cape of Good Hope was identified as the “East Indies.” Even in the nineteenth century, until the transfer of the Federation of Malay States to the Colonial Office in 1867, “British India,” spanned from today’s Pakistan to the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. Although nuanced by the increasingly strong presence of China in European minds, the French still referred to the notion of “India” in constructing Indochina in the late nineteenth century. Even in Australia, an officer in the Indian survey corps could name a mountain range Australindia.16 Such naming practices were essentially a part of the spatial discourse through which those lands were appropriated into the cultural realm of the naming-power. 17 This was not the space of the historic inhabitants of today’s India. According to A.L. Basham, the ancient “Indians” knew their sub-continent as Jambudvipa (the continent of the rose-apple) or Bharatavarsa (the land of the sons of Bharata, a legendary emperor). 18 The names, “India,” “East India,” and “Indochina,” indicate that the construction of identities of those lands and their subjects largely took place between the European powers who carried the fifteenth century image of “India” wherever they went. Unlike Europe--which has always been highly differentiated in European minds-the extra-European world was therefore perceived as “empty,” absolute space that could be divided arbitrarily between the Portuguese and the Spanish. Crucial watersheds of this process were the Treaty of Alçovas-Toledo of 1479 and the Papal Bull of 1493. Legitimizing the division of this land between these Catholic powers in 1493, Pope Alexander VI established what came to be known as the Pope’s Line, 100 leagues west of Cape Verde Island. 19 As a response to Portuguese protests

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space


against the lack of passage for their India bound ships in the south Atlantic, the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 moved this line another 270 leagues to the west, as a result, reallocating Brazil to the Portuguese. (figure 1.1) The other east-west boundary, between the Philippines and the Moluccas, was established through military negotiations in the early sixteenth century. The conditions that prevailed, such as the competition between two Iberian, Catholic powers, Asian resistance, and technological constraints such as the long travel time between Europe and “India,” acted as impediments to achieving domination over the space they conceived. Yet they transformed a large part of the world, producing what might be called a “world-space.” I employ “world-” to denote a fragment of the world-society and space which is, in common parlance, a “world” which forms substantially autonomous economic, political, and cultural entity. 20 Ferdinand Fried has argued that such a world-economy seems to be limited in size to about 40 to 60 days of travel time utilizing the fastest means of transport. 21 The Portuguese expanded their domain far beyond this, but with specific implications. Portuguese Indian Ocean Space The organization of the Portuguese Indian O cean space was considerably transformed over time. The Portuguese, whose trade achieved near monopoly status in the early sixteenth century and who presided comfortably over the Indian Ocean trade until the 1580s, provided accommodation for indigenous trade, as well as their own private trade. 22 In Lanka too, a formidable rebellion in their territory compelled the Portuguese to revise their policy of hostility to Kandy and conclude a peace treaty with its king in 1617. 23 The aim of this chapter, however, is to provide a long term perspective for our investigation. I shall, therefore, focus on the large-scale structures of the “Portuguese-presided Indian Ocean.” Despite Iberian colonization of vast territories in the Americas, in Asia the Portuguese established their domination over a large sea-space surrounded by and organized around a series of fortified outposts. The Portuguese presence in the Indian Ocean region was largely an urban one.24 Technically, Ceylon was an exception to this rule. Yet Portuguese administrative control over territories was too weak to be conceptualized otherwise; they largely employed former Lankan “chiefs” and administrative mechanisms to expand their authority over the territories from the main cities. Instead of competing in the extant trade networks, an option that was open in the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese chose to use force to monopolize trade.25 Force was used to construct a profitable trading system as well as protect profits and plunder, particularly by blocking indigenous merchants from selling goods to anyone but the Portuguese. The monopoly of trading activity was radically new in Asia. Prior to the advent of the Portuguese, the Indian Ocean trade network did not represent a single, self-contained world-region. Nor was there a single world-economy within which trading in Asia, Africa, and Europe operated, but several. The Indian Ocean


Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

complex also had a multi-ethnic composition, with no evidence of religious animosities among the various trading groups.26 The Indian Ocean had been a multivalent, polysemic geographic space, but with an underlining cohesion. Not all kingdoms around the Indian Ocean directly participated in nor depended on seaborne long-distance trade. M any Asian rulers considered that wars at sea were merchants’ affairs, and of no concern to the prestige of kings.27 Some of them had, from time to time, entered and withdrawn from the trading system. Abu-Lughod highlights three major withdrawals by the Cholas, the Vijayanagar, and Chinese in the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries.28 Sea routes of the Indian Ocean also had a wide range of meanings; they were used for diplomatic, trade, religious, political, and military purposes. Although the whole region did not share a common destiny, according to Chaudhuri, “the idea of a common geographical space defined by an exchange of ideas and material objects was quite strong, not only in the minds of merchants but also in those of political rulers and ordinary people.” 29 The large sea that connected this social space had, therefore, been a polysemic and multipurpose “commons” that could be used by the surrounding societies. Ashin Das Gupta remarked some years ago that the trouble with Asia is that we do not know if it really exists; what we see here is the construction of modern Asia. Despite the appropriation and transformation of a large proportion of trading ports and sea routes in the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese failed to establish any substantial domination over the adjacent land based societies. W hat they created was a large single body of maritime power and a long distance trade network. The two rules of Indian experience illustrate that land was not the Iberian domain: first, never land on a potentially hostile shore without first exchanging hostages...; and secondly, never, unless absolutely unavoidable, offer battle on land in circumstances where the fire power from the ship’s gun could not be trained on the enemy.30 The Portuguese thus inverted the spatial order of the Indian Ocean region which was not comprised of homogeneous social and political entities, but a variety of forms, such as empires, kingdoms, and cities. 31 Moreover, many of the cities that participated in trade were not directly under the jurisdiction of the adjacent interior kingdom. Trading operated through a vast number of nodes; some within kingdoms, or empires, some outside the jurisdiction of these, and others semiautonomously. This was the case with Colombo. The various trading posts constituted a series of maritime centers for treasure, shipping, and exchange, resembling what Richard Haëpke has called, an “archipelago of towns.” The Portuguese replacement of the “archipelago of towns” by a series of outposts of a single empire separated the societies in the region into an “archipelago of kingdoms” (and empires). By the mid-sixteenth century the Portuguese held most of the major entrepôts in the Indian Ocean. These cities forming part of the larger empire acquired a disproportionate advantage in their militaristic negotiations

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space


with the “isolated” kingdoms. For example, each time the forces of the Lankan King of Sitavaka besieged the Portuguese fort in Colombo, a force arriving by sea-mainly from the Portuguese “control center” at Goa--was able to recapture it. Yet the organization of a single imperial space, spanning from Lisbon to Salvador and Macao, was beyond the controlling abilities of Portuguese means of communication, organization, and technology. The main means of communication between Lisbon and Goa was represented by the Carreira da India, the voyage of the fleet of ships which, under favorable weather conditions, took one and a half years. 32 In order to consolidate the Portuguese position in “India,” King Manuel of Portugal appointed a nobleman, Francisco de Almeida, as Viceroy. Goa became the seat of the Viceroy who would remain there for three years, with absolute power over all settlements east of Moçambique and subject only to direction by the Crown.33 This made Portuguese India quite strong but also a separate segment of the empire. This is best illustrated by the fact that, during the Portuguese-Dutch wars of the mid seventeenth century, the Goans did not agree with Lisbon’s priority to save Brazil over Ceylon; instead they opted to save Ceylon--crucial for the security of Goa. 34 In the 1650s the municipality of Goa contributed one of the largest sums ever spent on the defence of Portuguese Ceylon.35 The Lisbon-Centered Urban System and Colombo Since the Portuguese were unable to penetrate inland, these outposts became the terminal points of their expansion and represented the perimeter of their military and trading domain. The Portuguese Indian Ocean Space was, therefore, an endless “India” and a seaborne empire, the structure of which was a system of sea lanes connecting a string of trading and military outposts. Although only loosely knit together, the Portuguese Empire radically reorganized the Indian Ocean space. The heterogenous archipelago of trading ports of the Indian Ocean was transformed into a series of military and trading outposts unified under a single power. Second, these outposts were linked to Lisbon along a line of communication established principally through the Carreira. (figure 1.2) Finally, these nodes were strategically organized into a hierarchy, with Lisbon at the top. The Portuguese made Lisbon the command center of the spice trade. Taking pepper and spices themselves to their northern customers, the Portuguese moved their center of exchange in Europe not to Lisbon but to Antwerp. Yet this model of having a dual center in Europe, functioning between 1498 and 1569, was shortlived; it came to an end after the closure of the Feitoria de Flanders at Antwerp, and the merging of the political and trading centers at Lisbon. As the center of the imperial and trading system, Lisbon itself was radically transformed. The influx of “Indian products” made the imperial capital into a vast and splendid emporium. By the mid-sixteenth century, the central artery, Rua Nova dos Mercadores, became one of the most elegant mercantile streets of Europe, where all kinds of porcelains, jewels, gold and silverware, exotic woods, and textiles from the East were sold.36


Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space


Exuberance over the Portuguese expansion in “India” was given tangible expression in Lisbon by building new shrines; every major Portuguese conquest in the East was depicted as a statue presenting its products symbolically to the king. The construction of architectural masterpieces during this time set a pattern for a particular Portuguese architecture.37 Manueline style was a Portuguese form of flamboyant Gothic acquiring its individuality through lavish use of decorative motifs derived from European and Asian prototypes. Portugal’s interest in Asian trade was also vividly portrayed in the triumphal arches and pedestals erected in Lisbon. This influence long outlived the king himself. Considering the means and modes of communication--especially shipping technology and the vast travel time between Lisbon and the Indian Ocean--the Portuguese Empire and its trading system largely relied on the organization of nodes, particularly the principal power center (Lisbon), the capital of the eastern empire (Goa), the ports of call (Moçambique), and the outposts. The outposts were organized along the route of the Carreira. Despite the desire of the King to transport spices as quickly as possible, the Carreira required not only a long time but also intermediate stops. For most of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Portuguese Crown insisted that “Indiamen” avoid calling at any port between Lisbon (or Oporto) and Goa, in either direction of travel.38 This was largely due to the time consumed in this journey and the fact that ships needed to stick to a strict schedule to ply with the wind patterns. These conditions also required a system of safe ports. If necessary, M oçambique island, the Azores, and (less often) St. Helena were thus authorized as stops. Of these, Moçambique island, with its facilities at Sophala in the mainland, became an indispensable port of call providing slaves, gold, and ivory, in addition to water, fruits, vegetables, and firewood that could not be procured elsewhere.39 The Dutch, unable to capture Moçambique, were later to assign this function to the Cape of Good Hope.40 Besides their linear organization along the route of the Carreira, the outposts were also hierarchically organized, with Lisbon as the most important. The Estado’s center of power in Asia lay on the western coast of India with the fleets that protected the Malabar Coast, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and the Straits of Melaka.41 The seat of the Viceroy, Goa, was well positioned to serve these needs of the Empire. Next to the Viceroy were the powerful Captains-General located in Moçambique, Muscat, Hormuz, Malacca, and Colombo. Crone summarizes this hierarchy: The Viceroy, or Governor General, resident at Goa, was responsible for all the fortresses and their establishments from the Indian Ocean to the China Sea, subject to directives from Lisbon. Nominally responsible to him were the Captains based at Mozambique, Muscat, Hormuz, Colombo, and Malacca; these officers, however, were given virtually a free hand in dealing with neighboring rulers, to wage war or plunder whenever they thought fit.42


Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

The Captains of the Portuguese forts and the Disaves, rulers of provinces of Kotte, were all responsible to the Captain-General of Colombo.43 W hat we see here, therefore, is a crucial turning point in the organization of large world-space through a single, interdependent urban system, a model which was to outlive the Portuguese empire. Colombo as a Portuguese Outpost The construction of a new urban system in the Indian Ocean required the building of new cities and the transformation of existing ones. Colombo is one of the best examples of this transformation; it was neither a principal port in the Indian Ocean trading network, nor an original target of the Portuguese, but was developed into an important node of the larger Portuguese empire and trading complex. Despite its exports, particularly cinnamon, pearls, and precious stones, Ceylon was the largest single drain on the Goan treasury.44 From the 1580s, the Portuguese abandoned many unprofitable factories but, by then, Colombo had become too vital to abandon on mere local profit grounds. Although located in the middle of the Indian Ocean and dependent on the trading complex for its existence, old Colombo had not been a principal port in regard to the scale of trading activities that took place across the ocean. AbuLughod notes that, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, “Although ships sailing between the Red Sea and the Straits of Malacca occasionally docked at [Colombo], most stopped at the commercial complex at Calicut where Gujarati and Jewish merchants shared in the prosperous trade.” 45 Since the Portuguese men-ofwar focussed on the Indian subcontinent, the Muslim traders avoided them by taking a circuitous route touching the Maldive Islands from Sumatra, Malacca, and Bengal to the Red Sea. 46 According to this thesis, it was in their attempt to interrupt this trade, that the Portuguese landed accidentally in Ceylon. Despite the existence of a dozen other small ports in the southwest, 47 under the Portuguese, Colombo emerged as the principal port of the island. Although first landing in the southern port of Galle, Point de Galle, the Portuguese established their stronghold in Colombo. Galle too had an active trading port. M ost crucial for the Portuguese was the geopolitical and colonial strategic importance of the port within the larger construction of Indian Ocean space.48 In regard to Brazil, A.J.R. Russell-W ood argues that the initial importance of the first ports established by the Portuguese, Salvador and Rio, was commercially and geopolitically strategic, but had nothing to do with the interiors. 49 Nonetheless, better access to the interior had perhaps been an important reason for the selection of Colombo as their center over Galle. The Portuguese made Colombo a strategic port in their seaborne structure of power and trade and the seat of the Captains-General. Suggestions had also been made to make Colombo the seat of the Portuguese “Indian Empire.” 50 The strategic importance of Colombo is recognized in the Dutch belief that once the Portuguese were ousted from Ceylon they would be out of “India.” 51 Later, the Dutch, who

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space


took over and ruled what had been the Portuguese territory of Ceylon between 1656 and 1798, also had a similar debate as to whether Colombo or Batavia was more suitable for the Dutch East India Company headquarters.52 These developments illustrate the process by which key decisions concerning urban development in the Indian Ocean region were made by European powers, whether in Europe or in Asia, through treaties and war. Early modern cities in Asia, therefore, had no immediate hinterland that produced them, nor did they have a history of “evolution.” The purpose of their existence and their meanings were intimately dependent on Europe, in this case, Portugal, and the Lisbon-centered Indian Ocean urban system. According to Brohier, [modern] Colombo is a city forced upon the people of Ceylon, and not a creation of their own choice or making. 53 Institutions and the Landscape Nonetheless, the outposts were not created by a simple extension of the Portuguese national urban system. The original medieval European images that the Portuguese carried to the Indian Ocean, such as “India,” the Mediterranean trading system, the organization of traffic, and trading as a royal monopoly, had to be compromised with the prevailing social and spatial conditions of the Indian Ocean region. In their outposts, the Portuguese transplanted three main institutions and their constituent building types; the feitoria, the fort, and the church. The earliest European building type to be planted on Asian shores was that of the Portuguese royal trading agency, the feitoria or factory. According to Boxer, the first “extra-European” feitoria was established at Arguim (south of Cape Blanco) about the year 1445 in an effort to tap the trans-Saharan trade of the western Sudan.54 Boxer describes the transition of this institution. For some years the Portuguese were content to conduct their slave-raids, or to drive their peaceful trade, from their ships as they sailed down the coast, anchoring off suitable roadsteads or estuaries. This use of ship as a floating base always remained in vogue but it was supplemented by the establishment of [feitorias] or trading posts ashore.55 A chain of feitorias was established by the Portuguese along the African and Asian coasts as far as the Moluccas. Though there are illustrations of both Dutch and English factories, those of the Portuguese are hardly illustrated or described by historians. The feitoria was the residence of the Feitor (English, Factor), the Portuguese royal trading representative in a foreign city, and was also the royal warehouse. Directly appointed by the King, the Feitor derived his remuneration and his legitimacy not from the merchant community in which he was resident, but from this external authority. 56 Hence, the Feitoria was essentially a colonial instrument. Military-administrative, trade, and revenue formed the three most important branches of the Portuguese administration, and were looked after by the Captains-


Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

General, the Feitor, and the Superintendent of Revenue. Since the Portuguese also held territories in Ceylon, there was a Superintendent of Revenue to take care of internal revenues. The Feitor, however, had substantial control over Portuguese activities; both he and his clerk held two of three keys to customs houses--the other was held by the Superintendent--and a key to the cash vaults. He also countersigned the official receipts. In this context, the General could side-step the Superintendent and, with the help of the Feitor, could cut the ground from beneath his feet. The Feitors were also the sources of intelligence. They gathered information from the region, particularly concerning trade, but also other political and cultural aspects, and communicated it directly to the King. He was also entrusted with the recording of all regulations sent by the King and the Viceroy and those proclaimed by the Captains-General. 57 As the low salary suggests, 58 this position provided additional income through commissions and bribery. Appointments, therefore, were given to nobles as a means of becoming rich quickly, but for a limited term in order to provide this opportunity for a large number. Moreover, these Feitors’ intelligence work made them suitable for future Viceroy (and Governor) positions. The feitoria was therefore a complex institution, and the associated building type was multifunctional, serving as warehouse, residence, library, and office. The feitoria also represented the Portuguese attempt to produce a larger version of a M editerranean trading complex. Boxer notes that feitorias originated from, and had much in common with, the medieval fonduchi, the residential quarters of Genoese, Venetians, and other Italian merchants in the M uslim seaports of north Africa and in Ottoman harbors.59 Braudel identifies this as a Venetian institution, Fondaco dei Tedeschi, that goes back to the thirteenth century. 60 According to Subrahmanyam, while the fondachi more often than not acted within the private sphere, the feitor was usually a state employee.61 Hence, the feitoria represents a Portuguese royal institution of overseas expansion constructed by adapting the European “factory” for Portuguese royal-mercantilist needs. The feitoria was the key institution around which trading settlements were organized. Braudel defines the Genoese equivalent as a street or a row of buildings.62 W hat the Portuguese trading post replaced in Colombo was, therefore, the M uslim town. This busy “sea-junction” comprised of a single main street-Bankshall Street--where their store-houses (Bangasalas) were located. The merchants’ quarters, the market place, and the mosque were clustered around these Bangasalas.63 W hile narrow by-ways ramified from this central space, the Muslims lived in compact communities around it. The Portuguese replaced this “city,” but moved theirs closer to their domain, the sea and the port. The role of the feitoria as the central institution of the trading posts, and the construction of a large-scale Mediterranean trading system in “India,” was short lived. As a consequence of the Portuguese use of force to monopolize trading and the resistances they faced, trading in these outposts was quickly exchanged for military functions, and the feitoria was replaced by the fort as the principal structure. In Colombo, the Portuguese who built the first feitoria in 1505 could not break the monopoly of the Muslims, and this feitoria was dismantled in 1507.

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space


Returning in 1517, the Portuguese soon constructed a fort. 64 These outposts were primarily military posts. The Portuguese, and later, the Dutch and British largely resorted to forts, employing Lankan aristocrats to rule the territories outside the city. As with Feitorias, these forts were also the places where the functions previously carried out from galleons were “grounded.” Chaudhuri has noted that “with an added deck and gun ports, the galleon became a floating fortress and a floating warehouse.” 65 Portuguese forts were located adjacent to the port constructing the immediate line of communication; first the port, then the fort, and beyond that was the “city.” The fort in Colombo was located on a narrow point furthest from the interior, cut off by marshes across which lay the only entrance from land, the Main Street. The Portuguese further enhanced the security of the fort by raising the level of water in the surrounding marshes which they named Beira Lake. Even after two centuries, the Dutch were cautious not to erect their dwellings beyond the guns of the fortress.66 Although the Portuguese forts were originally built to defend the occupants from the “Indians,” the entry of other European powers into the region and the expansion of European warfare into those distant waters made them use their forts against European enemies as well. This was a consideration that the Portuguese had not taken into account, although the Dutch had done so in Colombo in the midseventeenth century. The Dutch, knowing the threat from European competitors and more commercially-oriented than the Portuguese, reduced the area of fortifications in Colombo to about forty acres, a third of that of the Portuguese. Robert Percival, who participated in the British conquest of Colombo in 1796, noted that Dutch fortifications, especially in Colombo and Trincomalee, were as complete as possible to secure the ports from internal and external attack. 67 As a European power that sought the Lankan King of Kandy’s help against the Portuguese, the Dutch also concentrated in land-locking the Kandy Kingdom by building a string of about fifteen fortresses around the island. The Portuguese fort of Colombo represented their medieval imagery and technology. It was largely a thick, high, and single line of ramparts built of timber and mud, with a ditch and moat on either side ending in the marshes, and which skirted a third of the city on the landside. The water level in the moat was raised to protect the Portuguese positions. Breaking the monotony were a dozen small size bastions built after ancient European models. 68 The Portuguese forts, however, did not follow a pre-conceived plan, but adopted medieval castle forms to site conditions, a type of fortress existing in Europe at that time.69 It was the Dutch who introduced new European fort design, including the star shape of which Batticaloa is the best example. 70 The Dutch later applied the most recent technology of the Eighty Years W ar to urban defence against both the indigenous Sinhalese and the English rivals.71 The conversion of non-Catholics, whom they saw as pagans, to Roman Catholicism, was a principal mission of the Portuguese. The spreading of Catholicism was inextricably entangled with political intrigue. In Goa in 1638, the Macaonese Franciscan Chronicler, Fr. Paulo da Trindade, observed,


Portuguese Indian Ocean Space The two swords of the civil and the ecclesiastical power were always so close together in the conquest of the East, that we seldom find one being used without the other. For the weapons only conquered through the right that preaching of the Gospel gave them, and the preaching was only of some use when it was accomplished and protected by the weapons.72

Offering Portuguese military help to each crowned head, Franciscan missionaries used political conflicts among kingdoms to convert the kings whom the Franciscans thought would be able to come with as large a number of men as possible. W hile the King of Kotte was the main sovereign to be converted, the ruler in Jaffna was also made to pledge in favor of Christianity in 1591. 73 The large number of churches and ecclesiastical buildings crowded into Colombo is a natural testimony to the Portuguese policy of extending their religion coterminously with their power. Representing this, midway along the principal street of Rio Directo, and facing the main plaza, stood the imposing Jesuit church of St. Paul’s, built in grand Corinthian architecture of the sixteenth century, and picturesquely crowning a nest of dormitories of the Jesuit College.74 (figure 1.3) Along with Catholicism, the Portuguese also exported their hatred towards Muslims, refusing them settlement in the ports. King Manuel was to tell the Viceroy of Goa, Francisco de Almeida, that “we have ordered the said M oors to be enslaved and all their property confiscated, because they are enemies of our holy Catholic faith and we have continual war with them.” 75 Most crucial was the carrying of such an image from Europe to “India,” producing an “ethnic group” of “Mauros” (English, “Moors”) out of ethnically heterogenous Muslim people, 76 and expelling such people from the new European-Christian city, which is a complex story in itself. This chapter began by addressing a particular transformation in European spatial perceptions which they employed not only to conceive but also to carry out spatial practices at a world-scale, amounting to a spatial revolution. It was as part of this process that the Portuguese produced their Indian Ocean Space which principally comprised of a system of trading and military outposts connected by sea lanes across. In the process, introducing feitorias, forts, and churches, the Portuguese transformed Colombo into an important node of this system. W ith the kingdom of Kandy assuming the role of resistance, by the end of the fifteenth century, the society and space in Lanka polarized into two camps represented by Colombo and Kandy. This spatial organization continued until the British conquest of Kandy in 1815. Notes 1. See Niels Steensgaard, The Asian Trade Revolution of the Seventeenth Century: The East India Companies and the Decline of the Caravan Trade (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1974); “Asian Trade and World Economy from the 15th to 18th Centuries,” in Teotonio R. de Souza, ed., Indo-Portuguese History: Old Issues, New Questions (New Delhi: Concept Publishing House, 1985), 225-236; Sanjay Subrahmanyam,

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space


The Political Economy of Commerce; The Portuguese Empire in Asia: A Political and Economic History (London: Longman, 1993). 2. Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 54. 3. J.H. Parry, “Introduction,” in John R. Hale and The Editors of Time-Life Books, eds., Age of Exploration (New York: Time Incorporated, 1966), 7. 4. Samir Amin, Eurocentrism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1989), 72-3. 5. See Michael Kearney, World View (Novato, CA: Chandler and Sharp, 1984), for a discussion. 6. See Robert Heine-Geldern, “Conceptions of State and Kinship in Southeast Asia,” Far Eastern Quarterly II (November, 1942): 15-30; Yda Sauerssig-Schreuder, “The Impact of British Colonial Rule on the Urban Hierarchy of Burma,” Review (Fall 1986): 249; Lefebvre, 243-4; Duncan, The City as Text; Patrick Harrington, “Lanka’s Cosmography Down the Ages,” in Senake Bandaranayake et al., eds., Sri Lanka and the Silk Road of the Sea (Colombo: The Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO and the Central Cultural Fund, 1990), 147-152; Richard L. Brohier, Ancient Irrigation Works in Ceylon (Colombo: Government Press, 1935) III: 1. 7. See K.S. Mathew, “Indian Merchants and the Portuguese Trade in the Malabar Coast During the Sixteenth Century,” in de Souza, ed., 1-12; Frederick Lane, Profits from Power, Readings in Protection Rent and Violence-Controlling Enterprises (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1979). 8. G.R. Crone, The Discovery of the East (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1972), 87, 159. 9. Charles R. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire 1415-1825 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969), 17; Crone, 87. 10. Crone, 158; K.N. Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean: An Economic History from the Rise of Islam to 1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 135. 11. Jean Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities ... Or the End of the Social, and Other Essays, trans. Paul Foss, Paul Patton and John Johnston (New York: Foreign Agents Series, 1983), 20-2. 12. Although unprecedented in the history of humankind, such an object was never fully achieved, nor is it fully achievable. 13. See Paul Carter, The Road to Botany Bay: An Exploration of Landscape and History (Chicago, IL: The Chicago University Press, 1987), 57, 67. 14. Particularly the Dum Diversas of 18 June 1452; the Roman Pontifex of 8 January 1455; and the Inter Caetera of 13 March 1456. (See Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 21-1) 15. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 19-20. 16. Carter, 57. 17. See, Carter, xviii, 8. 18. A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India (New York: Grove Press, 1959), 1. 19. “Pope’s Line” is interpreted in most maps as a line 400 west of Greenwich. (Richard L. Brohier and J.H.O. Paulusz, Lands, Maps and Surveys: Descriptive Catalogue of Historical Maps in the Surveyor General’s Office, Vol. II (Colombo: Ceylon Survey Department, 1951), 23n.) 20. See Braudel, The Perspective of the World, 21-2; Wallerstein, The Modern World System I, 348. 21. In Wallerstein, The Modern World-System I: 16-17. See also Fernand Braudel, La Mediterranée I: 339-340. In (English) geography, the notion of time-space convergence was introduced by the geographer D.G. Janelle, to refer to the “shrinking” of distance in terms


Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

of the time needed to move between different locations. (“Spatial Reorganization: A Model and a Concept,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 59 (1969): 348-64.) 22. See Subrahmanyam, The Portuguese Empire in Asia; Steensgaard, The Asian Trade revolution; “Asian Trade and World Economy;” James C. Boyajian, Portuguese Trade in Asia Under the Habsburgs, 1580-1640 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 5, 7, 16. 23. de Silva, Chandra R., The Portuguese in Ceylon 1617-1638 (Colombo: H.W. Cave, 1972), 25, 247. 24. See Subrahmanyam, The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 216. 25. Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean, 78, 87; Lane, 45, 47. 26. M.A.P. Meilink-Roelofsz, Asian Trade and European Influence in the Indonesian Archipelago Between 1500 and about 1630 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1962), 297; Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony, 33, 34 fig 1; Wallerstein, The Modern World System I, 13; Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean, 7-8, 126. 27. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 50. 28. Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony, 277, 347. 29. Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean, 21, 3. 30. Crone, 76. 31. All these categories are ones which were produced in “modern” Europe. We do not know exactly what existed in the Indian Ocean region, nor have we developed concepts to identify them. However, the point here is that the social and political entities were not similar and homogenous in the way today’s “inter-state system” is perceived and practiced. (See Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilization in the Indian Ocean, 3) This system--if there were one--is far more complex than the matrix presented in Subrahmanyam. (The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 11) 32. Charles R. Boxer, “The Carreira da India,” in From Lisbon to Goa 1500-1750. Studies in Portuguese Maritime Enterprise (London: Variorum Reprints, 1984): 33. See also, T. Bentley Duncan, “Navigation Between Portugal and Asia in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” ch. in Cyriac K. Pullapilly and Edwin J. van Kley, eds., Asia and the West: Encounters and Exchanges from the Age of Explorations (Notre Dame, IN: Cross Cultural Publications, 1986): 3-21. 33. Crone, 45. 34. George Davison Winius, The Fatal History of Portuguese Ceylon: Transition to Dutch Rule (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), xiv. 35. Teotonio R. de Souza, Medieval Goa: A Socio-Economic History (New Delhi: Concept Publishing House, 1979), 142. 36. Donald F. Lach, A Century of Wonder. vol 2. Asia in the Making of Europe, 2 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 7. 37. Asian influence in Portuguese architecture is an underdeveloped area of study. (See, Raul da Costa-Tôrres, Architectura dos Descobrimentos (Braga, 1943); George Kubler and Martin Soria, Art and Architecture in Spain and Portugal and Their American Dominion (Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1959); J. Barreira, et al., Arte Portugesa (Lisbon, 1948); George Kubler, Portuguese Plain Architecture: Between Spices and Diamonds, 1521-1706 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1972). 38. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 111. 39. Duncan, “Navigation Between Portugal an Asia,” 4. 40. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 111, 221. 41. See Boyajian, 13. 42. Crone, 61-2.

Portuguese Indian Ocean Space


43. de Silva, The Portuguese in Ceylon, 160. 44. Boyajian, 7, 223. 45. Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony, 273-4. 46. M.M.M. Mahroof, “The Muslims Under the Portuguese and Dutch Occupation (15051796),” in M.M.M Mahroof, et al., eds., An Ethnological Survey of Muslims of Sri Lanka. From Earliest Times to Independence, 44. 47. See Paul.E. Pieris, The Ceylon Littoral 1593 (Colombo: The Times of Ceylon, 1949). 48. According to Subrahmanyam, for the VOC, control of Sri Lanka implied an improved ability to check navigation between the Western Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. (The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 178) 49. A.J.R. Russell-Wood, “Ports of Colonial Brazil,” in Franklin W. Knight and Peggy K. Liss, eds., Atlantic Port Cities: Economy, Culture, and Society in the Atlantic World, 1650-1850 (Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press, 1991). 50. See, Charles R. Boxer, “Portuguese and Spanish Projects for the Conquest of Southeast Asia, 1580-1600,” Journal of Asian History III (1969): 125. 51. Paul E. Pieris, Ceylon: The Portuguese Era (Dehiwala: Tissa Prakasakayo Limited, 1983), II: 3. See also Winius, ix. 52. For example, a leading figure in the Dutch VOC, Sebalt de Weert, had favored Ceylon as the Dutch East India Company headquarters. Once he left his position in the company, the matter was settled in favor of Java in 1619. (Richard L. Brohier, Links Between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands: A Book of Dutch Ceylon (Colombo: Netherlands Alumni Association of Sri Lanka [1978]), 23) 53. Richard L. Brohier, Changing Face of Colombo (1501-1972): Covering the Portuguese, Dutch and British Periods (Colombo: Lake House, 1984), 2. 54. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 25; 47-8. 55. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 25. 56. Subrahmanyam, The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 46-7. 57. de Silva, The Portuguese in Ceylon, 167-8. 58. Tikiri Abeyasinghe, Portuguese Rule in Ceylon 1594-1612 (Colombo: Lake House Publishers, 1966), 83-9, 129. Captain of Colombo 25,000 Pardaos, Captain of Galle 15,000, the Feitor 4,000 Pardaos. (191) 59. C.R. Boxer The Dutch Seaborne Empire 1600-1800 (London: Penguin Books, 1990), 209; Crone, 154. 60. Braudel, The Perspective of the World, 125. 61. Subrahmanyam, The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 46. 62. Braudel, The Perspective of the World, 125 63. See Brohier, Changing Face of Colombo, 5; Mahroof, 65; Marina Azeez, “Early Muslim Settlers,” in M.M.M Mahroof, et al., eds., 35. 64. Winius, 6. 65. In Merle Severy, “Portugal’s Sea Road to the East,” National Geographic 79 (1992): 182-5. 66. James Emerson Tennent, Ceylon: An Account of the Island. Physical, Historical, and Topographical with Notices of its Natural History, Antiquities and Productions. 2 vols (London: Longman, 1859), II: 153. The Dutch had built what can be identified as country houses, but in a well-protected area of Hultsdorp. 67. Robert Percival, An Account of the Island of Ceylon Containing its History, Geography, Natural History, with the Manners and Customs of its Various Inhabitants to which is Added the Journal of an Embassy to the Court of Candy (New Delhi: Asian Education Service, 1990), 14; Brohier, Links Between Sri Lanka and Netherlands, 37.


Portuguese Indian Ocean Space

68. From Ribeiro’s accounts cited in H.A.J. Hulugalle, Centenary Volume of the Colombo Municipal Council 1865-1965 (Colombo: Colombo Municipal Council, 1965), 14. 69. G.C. Mendis, Ceylon Under the British (Colombo: Colombo Apothecaries, 1946), 17. 70. See R.K. de Silva and W.G.M. Beumer, Illustrations and Views of Dutch Ceylon 1602-1796. A Comprehensive Work of Pictorial Reference with Selected Eye-Witness Accounts (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988), 71, 91, and 138. 71. See G.J. Ashworth, War and the City (London: Routledge, 1991), 34; W.A. Nelson, The Dutch Forts of Sri Lanka: The Military Monuments of Ceylon (Edinburgh: Cannongate, 1984). 72. In Charles R. Boxer, The Church Militant and the Iberian Expansion, 1440-1770 (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 75. 73. O.M. da Silva, Vikrama Bahu of Kandy: The Portuguese and the Franciscans (15421551) (Colombo: M.D. Gunasena, 1967), 29-30; de Silva, The Portuguese in Ceylon, 42. 74. Brohier, Changing Face of Colombo, 7. 75. In Charles R. Boxer, Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1415-1825 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963), 41. 76. M.A.M. Shukri, “Introduction,” in Muslims of Sri Lanka, 21; Marina Azeez, “The Muslims of Sri Lanka,” 3-13; “Early Muslim Settlers,” 20.

1: The Portuguese Indian Ocean Space and the Construction of Ceylon  

Beginning with the Spatial Revolution of the Late Fifteenth Century cause by the voyages of Gama and Columbus, the chapter maps out the spat...