History Painting

Conceptualising Iberian Asia

3:00pm - 5:00pm / Thursday 16th May 2024 / Venue: Wallbank Lecture Theatre 8-14 Abercromby Square
Type: Seminar / Category: Research / Series: History Seminar Series
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The 1498 arrival of Portuguese vessels in the Indian Ocean world and the 1521 Spanish crossing of the Pacific marked a turning point in the history of early globalization. Over the following decades, Iberian empire-building connected the wealthy civilizations and markets of maritime Asia to the Atlantic world and to the Western coast of the American continent. Yet, the Iberian presence in Asia went well beyond the formal borders of empires. Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and other European Catholic priests established missions in the territories of non-European empires such as Ming China. Portuguese merchants began to trade in Japan finding themselves at the mercy of local political authorities. The appearance of Luso-Asian and Spanish-Asian populations, languages and cultures began to blur the very distinction between Iberian and indigenous.
How can historians make sense of the scattered presence of Iberians in early modern Asia, which differs so much from Spanish America and the Portuguese Atlantic? What can historians gain from deploying a concept embracing communities and individuals from Malindi in East Africa to Tidore in the Maluku Islands and possibly to Acapulco in Mexico? What are its limits? The seminar aims to share some preliminary reflections for a working definition of Iberian Asia. It will propose alternative working chronologies, including those signposted by the global silver trade. Students and colleagues interested in the challenges of conceptualizing and writing global history and themes such as the production of ethnographic knowledge or the conflicting agendas of different European groups in early modern Asia are warmly invited to attend.


Harald E. Braun is Reader in European History at the University of Liverpool. His research connects the history and historiography of political thought, Iberian empires, and transgressive violence in early modernity. His most recent publications include a Companion to the Spanish Scholastics (2022). He is the co-editor, with Pedro Cardim, of the series Early Modern Iberian History in Global Contexts published by Routledge (https://www.routledge.com/Early-Modern-Iberian-History-in-Global-Contexts/book-series/EMIHIGC).
Matteo Salonia holds a PhD in History from the University of Liverpool. Currently he is Assistant Professor in European and International History at the University of Nottingham Ningbo (China) and 2024 Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Benedictine College (US). He has published the monograph Genoa’s Freedom: Entrepreneurship, Republicanism and the Spanish Atlantic (2017) as well as an edited volume titled Travel Writings on Asia (2022). His research interests include medieval constitutionalism, the age of Iberian exploration, and the history of global Catholicism.