São Jorge da Mina and Macao: a comparative reappraisal of European encounters

by Mariana Boscariol

27 Aug 2021
Journal of the British Academy
Digital Object Identifier
Number of pages
26 (pp. 32-57)

Abstract: The early modern Portuguese empire presents a variety of case studies to explore the process of border making experienced in direct response to European activity and imperialism. Considering its scale and dispersion, the Portuguese empire shows both fluidity and rigidity of borders and the strategies of control and security taken in response to or within their establishments. The Portuguese factory of São Jorge da Mina, that was built in 1482, and Macao, one of the most important European harbours in Asia in the 1550s, offer valuable insights into early Portuguese/non-European relations. Both cases constitute a concession of a limited and well-defined land where the Portuguese could stay, with full control, resulting from agreement with the terms stipulated by the local authorities. Considering the asymmetries of historiography when treating the two cases, rather than a direct comparison, this article aims to bring some reflections on these experiences as paradigms of the limit of action of the early modern Portuguese empire.

Keywords: Portuguese empire, governance, port cities, early modern history, sovereignty.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 9, supplementary issue 4 (Global Border Making and Securitisation in the Early Modern World)

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