Birth of the Anglo-Indian Community I: the Portuguese Empire

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The birth of the Anglo-Indian community goes far back in history, to the 15th Century. In 1498, a new international community was born: the Eurasians, or as others have termed them: Euro-Asians. The community grew from the Punjab to the Philippines, with men from a dozen European nations fathering children in, and out, of wedlock with mothers from every country of the region where a European flag was planted. The Anglo-Indian community in India was considered the largest ‘sub-community’ in the region, with a peak of 500,000. Today, there are said to be around 150,000 Anglo-Indians in India – although this is debated – and around 250,000 elsewhere in the world, mostly in Australia, Canada, U.K. and U.S.A. The initial migration of Europeans to India is said to have began with the Portuguese.

The Portuguese

“The Portuguese, in the form of Vasco da Gama and his men, first arrived in India at Calicut in 1498. Vasco da Gama told the first Indians that he met that he came to seek ‘Christians and spices’. The Portuguese quickly established sea ports on the Malabar coast, and by virtue of their superior seapower, managed to divert most of the European spice trade onto their own vessels.

In 1510, Affonso de Albuquerque captured Goa from the Sultan of Bijapur and made it the capital of the Portuguese eastern empire. A seond important centre for the Portuguese in India was Diu in Gujarat. The Portuguese would not tolerate any faith but their own, and would not allow any Hindu temples in Goa. They introduced the Inquisition in 1560 and persecuted the Syrian Christians of Malabar. Albuquerque encouraged mixed marriages between Portuguese men and Indian women, with the intention that a race would be created with Portuguese blood and Catholic culture, along with loyalty to the home of their paternal ancestors. This would form a permanent self-perpetuating garrison.

The Portuguese were very successful commercially, for about a century. Then in 1580, Portugal itself was taken over by Spain, which was involved in long and costly wars with the English and Dutch. Portuguese resources waned and their maritime supremacy in India was challenged by the English. In 1612, the English East India Company defeated the Portuguese off Surat. In 1618, the English made an agreement with the Mughals to protect sea traffic from the Portuguese in return for important trading privileges. In 1622, the English East India Company’s maritime arm defeated the Portuguese at the strong point of Ormuz in the Persian Gulf, and the Portuguese then became a minor political and commercial force in India. They retained control of Goa until 1950, when the Indian Army forcibly united Goa with the rest of independent India.” (FIBIS website).

Further information on the Portuguese Empire can be found here.

More information on the history of the Portuguese in India can be found here and on the FIBIS website here.

Cover picture credit: “CPLPmap” by Felipe Fontoura – Own work, based in older version of Image:BlankMap-World.png. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

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