Need to digitise Indo-Portuguese records: experts

Tuesday, 30 September 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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PANAJI: Technology should be used to preserve and digitise rare and crucial records of Portuguese colonial rule in India, say researchers and historians.

Very valuable material lies scattered across trading houses that once played a key role in Indo-Portuguese history, family collections, private foundations, cultural and religious establishments, experts told a global seminar here.

"In order to facilitate access to, and knowledge of, such documentation and sources, (the seminar) recommends that steps be taken to set up a database and documentation centre with online access," a resolution passed at the 11th International Seminar on Indo-Portuguese History said.

The series of Indo-Portuguese seminars, now in its 25th year, aims to promote interest and research into Portuguese colonial rule of India that dates back 500 years.

The resolution pointed out that help was specially needed for compiling documents and sources that were not yet part of national or international archival networks.

Portugal was a tiny but influential colonial power that controlled international sea routes through its presence in certain pockets of Asia, the Persian Gulf and the Far East, long before the Danes, Dutch, French and the British came to Asia as colonial powers.

Valuable documentation into this period of global history is today stored in archives in Goa, Portugal, Brazil, Macau, Sri Lanka, Rome, London and France, apart from some other places.

Such information, though not easily accessible always, is believed to be of immense importance to study and understand the administration, socio-cultural aspects, trade and commerce, economic structures, global trends and science and technology of that time.

It was suggested that help in networking and digitising records could be sought from the Indian Council of Historical Research, Portuguese cultural foundations, Maritime History Society, Indian Navy, and local research foundations in Goa.

Papers presented at the seminar ranged from subjects like Portuguese cartography of the Indian coast in the 16th century to the Antwerp gem trade with Portuguese India 400 years ago.

Participants were from diverse places like India, Brazil, the U.S., Belgium, Germany, France, Portugal and Australia.

Teotonio R. de Souza, a prominent Indo-Portuguese historian from Goa who now lives in Portugal, argued that studies on the socio-cultural-political implications of the Portuguese empire seemed to be lacking.

Much of Indo-Portuguese research, he suggested, had focused predominantly on issues "of navigation and trade, and somewhat less predominantly, on themes related to missionary activities and artistic influences".

Goa was the first European colony in the Indian subcontinent and remained one of the longest surviving colonies in almost the entire Asia and Africa, having been ruled by Lisbon from 1510 to 1961.

Source: IANS
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