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João de Barros

João de Barros

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João de Barros (1496 – October 20, 1570), called the Portuguese
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 Livy
Livy
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...

, is one of the first great Portuguese historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

s, most famous for his Décadas da Ásia ("Decades of Asia"), a history of the Portuguese in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

.

Early years


Educated in the palace of Manuel I of Portugal
Manuel I of Portugal
Manuel I , the Fortunate , 14th king of Portugal and the Algarves was the son of Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, , by his wife, Infanta Beatrice of Portugal...

, he composed, at the age of twenty, a romance of chivalry, the Chronicle of the Emperor Clarimundo, in which he is said to have had the assistance of Prince John (afterwards King John III
John III of Portugal
John III , nicknamed o Piedoso , was the fifteenth King of Portugal and the Algarves. He was the son of King Manuel I and Maria of Aragon, the third daughter of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile...

). Upon ascending the throne, he awarded Barros the captaincy of the fortress of St George of Elmina
Elmina Castle
Elmina Castle was erected by Portugal in 1482 as São Jorge da Mina Castle, also known simply as Mina or Feitoria da Mina) in present-day Elmina, Ghana . It was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea, so is the oldest European building in existence below the Sahara...

, to which he proceeded in 1522. In 1525, he obtained the post of treasurer of the India House
Casa da Índia
Casa da Índia was the Portuguese organization that managed all overseas territories during the heyday of the Portuguese Empire in the 16th century. It was both the central authority for managing all aspects of overseas trade, the central shipment point and clearing house...

, which he held until 1528.

To escape from an outbreak of bubonic plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

 in 1530 Barros moved from Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

 to his country house near Pombal
Pombal, Portugal
Pombal is a town in Pombal Municipality, Portugal. The population of the city is about 16.000 inhabitants....

, where he finished a moral dialogue, Rho pica Pneuma, which was cheered by Juan Luís Vives
Juan Luís Vives
Juan Luis Vives , also Joan Lluís Vives i March , was a Valencian Spanish scholar and humanist.-Biography:Vives was born in Valencia...

. On his return to Lisbon in 1532 the king appointed Barros factor (agent)
Factor (agent)
A factor, from the Latin "he who does" , is a person who professionally acts as the representative of another individual or other legal entity, historically with his seat at a factory , notably in the following contexts:-Mercantile factor:In a relatively large company, there could be a hierarchy,...

 of the "Casa da Índia e da Mina" (House of India and Mina)
Casa da Índia
Casa da Índia was the Portuguese organization that managed all overseas territories during the heyday of the Portuguese Empire in the 16th century. It was both the central authority for managing all aspects of overseas trade, the central shipment point and clearing house...

— a position of great responsibility and importance at a time when Lisbon was the Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an center for the trade of the East. Barros proved a good administrator, displaying great industry and an honesty rare at the time, with the result that he made little profit compared to his predecessors, who had amassed fortunes.

The failed captaincy in Brazil and shipwreck


At this time, John III, wishing to attract settlers to Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, divided it into captaincies
Captaincy
A captaincy is a historical administrative division of the former Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires. Each was governed by a captain general.-In the Portuguese Empire:...

 and attributed to Barros that of Maranhão
Maranhão
Maranhão is a northeastern state of Brazil. To the north lies the Atlantic Ocean. Maranhão is neighbored by the states of Piauí, Tocantins and Pará. The people of Maranhão have a distinctive accent...

. Barros with two partners, prepared an armada of ten vessels, carrying nine hundred men each, which set sail in 1539.

Owing to the ignorance of the pilots, the whole fleet was shipwrecked, which entailed serious financial loss to Barros. As a gesture of goodwill, Barros subsequently paid the debts of those who had perished in the expedition.

During these years he had continued his studies in his leisure hours, and shortly after the Brazilian disaster he offered to write a history of the Portuguese in India, the Décadas da Ásia, which the king accepted. He began work forthwith, but, before printing the first part, he published a Portuguese grammar (1539) and some further moral Dialogues.

Decades of Asia


The first of the Décadas da Ásia ("Decades of Asia") appeared in 1552, and its reception was such that the king straightway charged Barros to write a chronicle of King Manuel. His many occupations, however, prevented him from undertaking this book, which was finally composed by Damião de Góis
Damião de Góis
Damiao de Góis , born in Alenquer, Portugal, was an important Portuguese humanist philosopher. He was a friend and student of Erasmus. He was appointed secretary to the Portuguese factory in Antwerp in 1523 by King John III of Portugal...

. The second Decade came out in 1553 and the third in 1563, but the fourth and final one was not published until 1615, long after the author’s death.

His Decades contain the early history of the Portuguese in India and Asia and reveal careful study of Eastern historians and geographers, as well as of the records of his own country. They are distinguished by clearness of exposition and orderly arrangement. They are also lively accounts, for example describing the king of Viantana's killing of the Portuguese ambassadors to Malacca
Malacca
Malacca , dubbed The Historic State or Negeri Bersejarah among locals) is the third smallest Malaysian state, after Perlis and Penang. It is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. It borders Negeri Sembilan to the north and the state of Johor to the south...

 with boiling water and then throwing their bodies to the dogs.

Diogo de Couto continued the Décadas, adding nine more, and a modern edition of the whole appeared in Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

 in 14 vols. in 1778—1788 as Da Asia de João de Barros, dos feitos que os Portuguezes fizeram no descubrimento e conquista dos mares e terras do Oriente. The edition is accompanied by a volume containing a life of Barros by the historian Manoel Severim de Faria and a copious index of all the Decades.

Later years


In January 1568 Barros retired from his remunerative appointment at the India House, receiving the rank of Fidalgo
Hidalgo (Spanish nobility)
A hidalgo or fidalgo is a member of the Spanish and Portuguese nobility. In popular usage it has come to mean the non-titled nobility. Hidalgos were exempt from paying taxes, but did not necessarily own real property...

 together with a pension and other pecuniary emoluments from King Sebastian, and died on 20 October 1570.

Works

  • (1520) Chronica do Emperador Clarimundo, donde os Reys de Portugal descendem, tirada da linguagem ungara em a nossa portugueza.. Coimbra: João da Barreira.
  • (1532) Rhopica Pneuma, ou mercadoria espiritual. Lisbon
  • (1539) Cartinha para aprender a ler, Lisbon: L. Rodrigues.
  • (1540) Grammatica da lingua portuguesa, Lisbon:L. Rodrigues.
  • (1540) Dialogo da viciosa vergonha, Lisbon: L. Rodrigues.
  • (1540) Dialogo de preceitos moraes com pratica delles em modo de jogo. Lisbon: L. Rodrigues.
  • (1552) Primeira Década da Ásia, dos feitos que os portugueses fizeram no descobrimento dos mares e terras do Oriente, Lisbon: Germão Galherde
  • (1553) Segunda Década da Ásia &c. Lisbon: Germão Galherde
  • (1562) Italian translation of Dec. I & Dec. II by Alfonso Ulloa, l'Asia del S. Giovanni di Barros Consigliero del Christianissimo Re di Portugallo de Fatti de' Portughesi nello scropimento, e conquista de' mari, e terre di Oriente. Venice: Vicenzo, Valgrisio
  • (1563) Terceira Década da Ásia &c., Lisbon: João da Barreira.
  • (1613) Quarta Década da Ásia &c. (as edited and reworked by cosmógrafo-mor João Baptista Lavanha), Madrid: Imprensa Real.
  • (1628) New edition of Dec.I-III. Lisbon: Jorge Rodrigues.
  • (1777–78) Da Ásia de João de Barros e Diogo do Couto, dos feitos que os portugueses fizeram no descobrimento dos mares e terras do Oriente, Lisbon: Régia Officina Typografica. (24 volumes; vols. 1-8 are reprints of Dec. I-IV of João de Barros; vol. 9 general index for Barros; vol. 10-23 are reprints of Dec. IV-XII of Diogo do Couto
    Diogo do Couto
    Diogo de Couto was a portuguese historian.-Biography:He was born in Lisbon in 1542 and studied Latin and Rhetoric at Saint Antão College and philosophy at the convent at Benfica...

    , vol. 24 general index for Couto. online (pdfs)

External links

  • Portuguese Site about João de Barros containing information about his life and work - by BrunoF
  • Barros:Decadas da Ásia … - links to scans of all 4 Barros-written, and most of the other 20 (post-Barros) volumes of Décadas da Ásia. For the first two Décadas, both the origina (1553) edition and the "modernized" 1778-1788 edition are available; for the rest, only the latter edition. Décadas da Ásia (several chapters, about the early exploration) - nead.unama.br Décadas da Ásia (2nd Decade, 1st part) - Google books (Book 1: Tristão da Cunha
    Tristão da Cunha
    Tristão da Cunha was a Portuguese explorer and naval commander. In 1514 he served as ambassador from king Manuel I of Portugal to Pope Leo X leading a luxurious embassy presenting in Rome the new conquests of Portugal...

    's expedition to India; Books 2, 3, 4: Alfonso de Albuquerque in the Arabian Sea
    Arabian Sea
    The Arabian Sea is a region of the Indian Ocean bounded on the east by India, on the north by Pakistan and Iran, on the west by the Arabian Peninsula, on the south, approximately, by a line between Cape Guardafui in northeastern Somalia and Kanyakumari in India...

     (Ormuz) and India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    ; Book 5: conquest of Goa
    Goa
    Goa , a former Portuguese colony, is India's smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population. Located in South West India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and by Karnataka to the east and south, while the Arabian Sea forms its...

    ) Décadas da Ásia (3nd Decade, 1st part, Books 1-5) (even though Google Books description mistakenly says this is the 5th Decade!) Décadas da Ásia (11th Decade) - Google books Partial text of the 3rd Década, Book 2, Chapter VII, "in which is described the land of China, and are related certain things of it, and especially of the city of Canton, which Fernão Pires de Andrade
    Fernão Pires de Andrade
    Captain Fernão Pires de Andrade was a Portuguese merchant, pharmacist, and official diplomat under the explorer and Malacca governor Afonso de Albuquerque...

     has discovered" - one of the earliest European descriptions of the Ming China. Re-typeset in a modern font, with a slightly modernized orthography.