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The Portuguese Administration in Malacca, 1511–1641

  • D. R. Sar Desai

With the exception of Alfonso de Albuquerque in the 16th century, Marquis de Pombal in the 18th and Oliveira Salazar in the 20th, Portugal can hardly boast of any special genius for administration, whether of the colonies or of the mother-country. This lack of administrative acumen is matched by lack of interest in administrative matters among Portuguese chroniclers and historians. While the secular historians concentrated on the heroic deeds of a rather limited era, their Jesuit counterparts concerned themselves with exaggerating the scanty exploits in their evangelical enterprise. The administration was not elaborate and, therefore, the records were scanty. Portugal did not have a budgetary system; no systematic accounts were maintained either for Portugal or for the colonies, especially in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Consequently, one might with justification lament with Professor Charles R. Boxer upon the paucity of material for an administrative history of the Portuguese colonial possessions. Even so, one might study the Portuguese colonial administration in the larger context of interests, policies, and prejudices.

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1. de Lannoy, Charles and van der Linden, Herman, Histoire de l'Expansion Coloniale des Peuples Europeans (Brussels 1907), I, p. 195.

2. Boxer, C. R., Portuguese Society in the Tropics (Madison, 1965), pp. 34.

3. Atkinson, William, “Institutions and Law,” in Livermore, H. V. ed., Portugal and Brazil (Oxford, 1953), p. 91. Also see de Silva Rego, A., O Padroado Portuguese do Oriente (Lisboa, 1940); Boxer, C. R., Four Centuries of Portuguese Expansion (Johannesberg, 1965), p. 65.

4. Boxer, C. R., “The Portuguese in the East, 1500–1800.” in Livermore, , ed., op. cit., p. 209.

5. Robinson, Ronald, Gallagher, John with Denny, Alice, Africa and the Victorians (London, 1961).

6. For a critical comment on Portuguese treatment of Muslim opposition on the East African coast, see Boxer, C. R.. Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1415–1825 (Oxford, 1963), pp. 4344.

7. According to Cady, John F., Southeast Asia, Its Historical Development (New York, 1964), p. 179, the Portuguese policies turned Malacca into an “outpost of empire”.

8. In 1505, the King, Dom Manuel, resolved to seize Ormuz, Aden and Malacca. In 1509, he sent Diogo Lopes de Sequeira directly from Portugal as Chief Captain of four ships to discover Malacca. Danvers, F. C., The Portuguese in India (London, 1804). I, pp. 143, 179.

9. Dames, M. L., ed., The Book of Duarte Barbosa (London, 1918), II, p. 175.

10. Macgregor, I. A., “Some aspects of Portuguese Historical Writing of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries on Southeast Asia;” in Hall, D. G. E., ed., Historians of South East Asia (London, 1961).

11. At the height of the trading season, Malacca would have a population of a million. The administration of such a metropolis must have been a formidable task. See Whiteway, R. S., The Rise of Portuguese Power in India, 1491–1550 (Westminster, 1899) p. 5.

12. Macgregor, I. A., “Notes on the Portuguese in Malaya,” Journal of the Malaya Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, XXVIII, 2 (05, 1955), pp. 1617.

13. Grants of land to the nobility were terminable at the King's pleasure and required confirmation from each new monarch. See Atkinson, William, op. cit., p. 88; Livermore, H. V., A New History of Portugal (Cambridge, 1966), p. 110.

14. Boxer, C. R., Four Centuries of Portuguese Expansion, p. 38; Livermore, , A New History of Portugal, p. 126.

15. For details see de Gray Birch, Walter, Trans., Commentaries of the Great Afonso Dalboquerque (London, 1877), II, pp. 125129.

16. Meilink-Roelofsz, M. A. P., Asian Trade and European Influence (The Hague, 1962), p. 169.

17. In Goa, the village “communidades” system was retained under a special charter in 1526. In Ceylon too, the land tenure system was continued. See d'Ameida Azevedo, A. E., As Communidades de Goa, Historia das Instituicoes antigas (Lisboa, 1890); Whiteway, , op. cit., pp. 215220; and Danvers, , op. cit., I, pp. 391393.

18. Hall, D. G. E., A History of South-East Asia (London, 1964), p. 202.

19. Pircs, Tome, Suma Oriental (London, 1944), II, p. 244; Birch, , ed., op. cit., III, pp. 8788.’

20. The Shahbandars had tremendous influence in the cultural sphere too. According to Shrieke, they introduced new court manners and etiquette and served as the principal agency for the spread of Islam in the archipelago. Shrieke, B., Indonesian Sociological Studies, Part II (The Hague, 1957), p. 238.

21. For the port laws in non-Portuguese Malaya in the seventeenth century, see Winstedt, Richard, The Malays, A Cultural History (London, 1961), p. 116.

22. Pires, op. cit., II, p. 273.

23. Atkinson, William, “Institutions and Law.” in Livermore, ed. op. cit., p. 90. The officials were expected “to fill their pockets, paper safeguards to the contrary notwithstanding”. Boxer, , Four Centuries of Portuguese Expansion, p. 18. Many of the captains of Malacca were related to the Portuguese nobility, see Macgregor, , “Notes on the Portuguese in Malaya”, pp. 3233.

24. Macgregor, , “Notes on the Portuguese in Malaya,” pp. 1718, provides manymore instances of the use of influence by Jorge de Albuquerque in behalf of his numerous relatives in the East.

25. Ibid. pp. 32, 42.

26. Jayne, K. G., Vasco da Gama and his Successors 1460–1580 (London, Methuen & Co. 1910), p. 107.

27. da Cunha Rivara, J. H., ed., Archivo Portuguez Oriental (Nova Goa, 1865), p. 744.

28. Whiteway, , op. cit., p. 279.

29. Botelho, Simao, “Tombo da Estado da India,” in Academia das Sciencias de Lisboa, Colleccao de Monumentos Ineditos (Lisbon, 1868), p. 105.

30. Whiteway, , op. cit., pp. 290–1, asserts that the collection of duties on Bengal goods amounted to 25 percent.

31. Botelho, , op. cit., p. 105.

32. For a scholarly analysis of the changes in direction and scope of trade in the Malay Archipelago after the advent of the Portuguese, see Meilink-Rodofsz, , op. cit., chapters VIII and IX, particularly p. 144.

33. For instance, despite the ban to sell weapons to the “infidels”, there were numerous cases of Portuguese officials having underhand dealings with many Hindu rulers on the west coast of India.

34. do Couto, Diogo, Da Asia: Dos feitos que os Portuguese fizeram na conquista e discubrimerato das terras e mares do Oriente (Lisbon, 1778–1788), VII, 2, p. 450; Botelho, , op. cit., p. 106; da Silva Rego, Antonio, Documentacao para a Historia das missoes do padroado portugues do Oriente-India, 1500–1559 (Lisbon, 19471962), II, pp. 232233. Private trade was officially allowed to Portuguese sailors to a limited extent. A member of a fleet could bring to Portugal a limited amount of spices, for the freight of which he paid at the rate of one-twentieth of its value. Danvers, , op cit., I, p. 79.

35. Meilink-Roelofsz, , op cit., pp. 140141, 167169.

36. See extracts from the History of the Ming dynasty, Book 325 in Groeneveldt, W. P., Notes on the Malay Archipelago and Malacca compiled from Chinese sources (Batavia, 1880), p. 134.

37. For the corrupt practices of Portuguese administrators in the Moluccas see Barros, , Da Asia, III, i, p. 615; Couto, , Da Asia, V, 2, pp. 316–18.

38. Botelho, , op. cit., p. 106.

39. The most glaring abuses of the time are listed in Simao Botelho's “Tombo …” and in his “Cartas” to the King dated 1554. For the malpractices of half a century later, see de Couto, Diogo, Soldado Practico (Lisbon, 1954). Couto speaks of corruption among governors and high officials including the judiciary. Also see de Figuerido Falcao, Luiz, Livro em que se content toda fazenda e real patrimonio (Lisbon, 1859), pp. 136, 269, 406. Also see Meilink-Roelofsz, , op. cit., pp. 156–7.

40. Whiteway, , op. cit., pp. 291–94.

41. Simao Botelho to the King of Portugal, Carta IV, in “Cartas de Simao Botelho,” Colleccao de Monumentos Ineditos, p. 19. Botelho, 's “Tombo da Estado da India,” p. 107, gives details of revenue during the period 1542–44. Also see Couto, , Da Asia, V, 2, p. 318.

42. “Rapport na de overgave Van Malcka,” in Beringen van het Hislorisch Genootschap VII, (1859), p. 433 quoted in Meilink-Roelofsz, , op. cit., p. 167.

43. Maxwell, W. George, “Baxreto de Resende's Account of Malacca,” Journal Straits Branch Royal Asiatic Society, No. 60 (1911), p. 9.

44. Rev. Fr. Cardon, R., “Portuguese Malacca,” Journal Malaya Branch Royal Asiatic Society, XII, 2 (1934), p. 12.

45. Danvers attributes Albuquerque's policy of leaving the civilian administration in the hands of local people and reserving the command of the forces in those of the ruling class, namely, the Portuguese, to the impact made on the Portuguese hero by the reading of the life of Alexander the Great. Danvers, , op. cit., I, pp. 328329.

46. Whiteway, , op. cit., pp. 144, 327.

47. de Eredia, Emamucl Godinho, “Description of Malacca and Meridional India and Cathay …” trans. J. V. Mills, Journal Malaya Branch Royal Asiatic Society, VIII, 1, p. 20Cardon, , op. cit., p. 10.

48. de Albuquerque, Afonso, Cartas, I (Lisbon, 1884), pp. 4748.

49. After the conquest of Malacca, the Portuguese tried to establish good relations with Hindu rulers and merchants in the Indonesian archipelago. In Malacca as in Pase and in Goa, Hindus helped the establishment of Portuguese power and prosperity. See Meilink-Roelofsz, , op. cit., pp. 121, 137, 364.

50. Theoretically, the office of Bendahara was to be permanent in Ninachatu's family. In 1514, however, he committed suicide. Pires comments that the loss of this man made “necessary for Malacca to have two hundred more Portuguese than were necessary to hold it.” Pires, , op. cit., II, p. 288.

51. Ibid., pp. 281–2.

52. There is at least one Portuguese mentioned as holder of the office of Temmengong in 1621 See Pissurlencar, Panduranga, ed., Assentos do Conselho da Estado, I (1618–33) (Bastora, Goa, 1953), p. 133.

53. Eredia, , “Description of Malacca …” op. cit., pp. 5354.

54. Rivarra, Cunha, op. cit., pp. 866891.

55. “O Estado da India,” or “the State of India” included until 1571 all possessions, forts and trading posts between Sofala and Macao.

56. Danvers, , op. cit., II, pp. 12.

57. Macgregor, , ‘Notes on the Portuguese in Malaya,” p. 6.

58. Rego, Silva, op. cit., p. 223. Laymen in Portuguese service who married in the Orient were allowed to quit the service and settle down as citizens or traders, being then termed “casados” or married men. The remainder were classified as soldiers of soldados and were liable for military service. See Boxer, Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, p. 58.

59. Boxer, , “The Portuguese in the East,” pp. 234235.

60. Pissurlencar, Panduranga, Regimentos das Fortalezas da India (Bastora, Goa, 1951), pp. 245250; Botelho, , “Tombo…” pp. 108110.

61. Macgregor, , “Notes on the Portuguese in Malaya,” pp. 2122.

62. Letter from Afonso Mexia, Captain of Cochin to the King of Portugal, January 15, 1530, quoted by Drnvers, , op. cit., p. 409.

63. Macgregor, , “Notes on the Portuguese in Malaya,” p. 29.

64. Danvers, , op. cit., pp. 141–48.

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Journal of Southeast Asian History
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