Boxer’s rebellion

Is this Prince Henry the Navigator? Scholars say maybe.

Historian C.R. Boxer takes great pleasure in the tribulations of pugnacious Portugal as over the centuries it struggled to keep its far-flung, shoestring empire intact. Which is why he’s a great read. I’ll spare you the “rigor of mercy,” medieval fears of moonlight, and Jerónimo de Albuquerque, the “philoprogenitive conquistador.” I’ll leave you with Boxer on Portugal vis-à-vis China, where in the sixteenth century the Portuguese established the trading center of Macau, a city that would later host a cluster of casinos and James Bond, and which would remain in Portugal’s possession until 1999:

Their first attempts to establish themselves on the shores of the south China coast had failed, partly through their own mismanagement and partly through the reluctance of the Chinese imperial bureaucracy to take any official cognizance of unwanted barbarian intruders from the Great Western Ocean. But a precarious smuggling trade was connived at by the coastal officials of Kwangtung and Fukien provinces for their own profit. This eventually led to the Portuguese securing a footing at Macao (c. 1557), which was reluctantly sanctioned by the Emperor at Peking when he belatedly discovered the existence of this settlement after some twenty years.

Twenty years? It’s like the Portuguese were a freckle on the emperor’s lower back.

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2 Responses to Boxer’s rebellion

  1. Jeanne Marie Penvenne says:

    Wonderful, fun and generous. Thanks. JmP

  2. James R. Coplin says:

    Those were bad times for the Ming and Guangzhou and Macao are extremely far away. This is especially true since Chinese officials involved in the smuggling (which they were) do not want their activities to come to light. In less than 50 years (1644), barbarians from beyond the northern passes in China would sweep into the heart of the country with the assistance of a key Ming general who defected with his troops. Nominally they came to expell Chinese rebels from Beijing but once they arrived, they decided instead to establish themselves as the Qing. They in turn would have their own problems with barbarians and smuggling in the form of Opium.

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