Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - Early Modern Connectivity : Drawing-out Deltaic Bengal through Portuguese Narratives, c. 1500-1640

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Silveroak II, Ground Floor


The notion of “connectedness” in early modern times resonates well on the Bengal coast and delta as seen through the Portuguese sources. Bengal, as experienced by Portuguese adventurers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, seems to reiterate many of the features outlined by historians for South Asia.


These narratives confirm the postulated “porosity” of frontiers through which the Portuguese renegades seeped almost effortlessly. They reveal the characteristic “bristling militarized rural society” in which state building and administrative consolidation became particularly difficult to achieve. This provided a context in which the Portuguese freebooters thrived.


Through the careers of these fortune seekers we can see the region getting drawn into much larger imperial processes, centered around the Mughal empire, the kingdom of Arakan and the Estado da India. The Portuguese were able to work all the political levers with dexterity. Through their escapades we get a sense of the cross-regional operation of politics, with strings being pulled from as far afield as Agra, Mrauk-U and Goa.


These Portuguese adventurers lived “across worlds” which they straddled and helped draw closer together. They formed a vital and vibrant part of processes at work when Bengal was at a crossroads and things, people and ideas came from very distant lands.


 

Radhika Chadha

University of Delhi, India

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2 - Early Modern Connectivity : Drawing-out Deltaic Bengal through Portuguese Narratives, c. 1500-1640



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