Liam Matthew Brockey: Jesuit Missionaries on the Carreira da Índia in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: A Selection of Contemporary Sources


Extract: “It is extraordinary, and almost like a dream", wrote a Jesuit priest in Macau in 1589, “that a man can be carried for six whole months in a ship, where the accommodations cannot in any way be sufficient and spacious, and many other difficulties must be endured." Imagining a conversation with the group of Japanese youths who were sent to Europe as the representatives of the “Kings of Japan", the author made a blunt assessment of the conditions of the passage to India aboard the carracks that plied the Carreira da Índia: Being trapped on ship for so long was tantamount “to being shut in a prison". Yet, as he contended, “certainly no one who was offered a house, even a regally appointed one, to live shut inside for six months, could stay detained or locked in for so long; much less on a ship replete with so many different kinds of inconveniences". Anxious lest his readers misunderstand this verdict on the Cape Route, the Jesuit author qualified his judgment in the fictional reply to this assertion: “Indeed, the inconveniences on ship surpass even those of prison."

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