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Project Summary

During the Iberian Union (1580-1640), the relations between the Portuguese Estado da Índia and Persia were intensified. The Spanish Crown tried to enrol the Safavids in an alliance against the Ottoman Empire, sending sundry embassies to Persia. The ascension to power of Shah Abbas (r.1587-1629) coincided with the arrival on the Indian Ocean of other European, namely the English, which soon tried to establish friendly relations with Persia.

The embassy of D. Garcia de Silva y Figueroa to Persia between 1615 and 1624 is part of this larger context. The results of the embassy weren´t brilliant, because it took place in a doubly hostile environment: as a Spaniard, the ambassador met with a rather cold reception at Goa; and his fidalgo attitude does not seem to have been appreciated by the Safavid court or by the European missionaries established in Persia since long.

The ambassador, without achieving any of his aims, died in 1624 on his way back to Europe. Silva y Figueroa, however, was a compulsive writer, and during his long mission, besides writing several diplomatic letters, he prepared some long "Comentários" of his travels, which would be published only in 1903 at Madrid.

This was a private edition, which did not circulate, explaining its total ignorance by Portuguese modern historiography. However, the "Comentários" are an invaluable source for the history of Persia and its interactions with the Iberians. A summary of its contents will show some of this value: book I (vol.1, pp.1-125 from the Spanish edition) relates the maritime voyage between Lisbon and Goa; book II (vol.1, pp.127-217) describes daily life in Goa; book III deals with Muscat and Hormuz (vol.1, pp.219-268); books IV, V, VI and part of VII (vol.1, pp.270-394 e vol.2, pp.1-449), besides recounting the details of the embassy, describe the travels of Silva y Figueroa in Persia, registering valuable data about Central Asia; part of book VII and book VIII (vol.2, pp.451-620) describes the return to Goa and to Portugal.

In sum, the "Comentários" by D. Garcia de Silva y Figueroa are an exceptionally valuable source for the history of the Portuguese Estado da Índia, for the history of Central Asia, and for the history of the interactions between Iberia and Safavid Persia. This research project aims at bringing to light a major source of overseas history, the "Comentários", in a Portuguese translations, with introduction and annotations; on the other hand, it wishes to study one of the less known periods of the interactions between Iberia and the Iranian world.


Project: Relações de Portugal com a Pérsia durante a União Ibérica. Os "comentários" de D. Garcia de Silva y Figueiroa.
Financing: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (PTDC/HAH/69734/2006)
Centro de História de Além-Mar - FCSH/Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Universidade dos Açores