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The Pagan King Replies: An Indian Perspective on the Portuguese Arrival in India

  • Sebastian R. Prange

Abstract

This article recommends a virtually unknown manuscript on the early Portuguese presence in India to wider scholarly attention. Dubbed here the Wye manuscript, this text purports to be an English translation of a sixteenth-century Malayalam history that was produced at the court of the ruler of Calicut. The South Indian kingdom of Calicut was central to Portugal’s project of monopolizing the region’s all-important pepper trade; the Wye manuscript therefore holds the promise of adding an Indian perspective to a history that has been written largely on the basis of European sources. This article examines the external and internal evidence for the author’s claim of having translated the text from an original palm-leaf manuscript held by members of Calicut’s royal family. An analysis of its content shows significant overlap with an Arabic history of the sixteenth century; a comparison of their similarities and differences suggests a number of insights into the processes of composition and revision of both the Malayalam and Arabic texts. Last, and most important, the Wye manuscript is transcribed in full in the hope of stimulating further discussion and study.

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Sebastian Prange is Assistant Professor of South Asian History at the University of British Columbia. He has published on the history of Islam, commerce, and piracy in the Indian Ocean. His forthcoming book, Monsoon Islam: Trade & Faith on the medieval Malabar Coast, studies the organization and transoceanic connections of Muslim communities in premodern South India. He gratefully acknowledges the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Insight Development Grant 430-2014-00190) as well as research assistance by Leyla Safta-Zecheria, Natalia Damasceno, and Hanna Smyth. He would further like to thank the journal’s editors and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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References

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The Pagan King Replies: An Indian Perspective on the Portuguese Arrival in India

  • Sebastian R. Prange

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