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Sad Story of the Conceicao 1555


Portugal’s acquisition of wealth and power from India in the 16th and 17th centuries reflected European technical superiority at the time. The story of the Conceição reveals how easily things could go wrong...

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978-1-399932677

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Portugal’s acquisition of wealth and power from India in the 16th and 17th centuries reflected European technical superiority at the time. The story of the Conceição reveals how easily things could go wrong – and what extraordinary powers of endurance could be shown by ordinary human beings abandoned to their fate by their social superiors. And all this in the context of India’s centuries old experience of dealing with external challenges.

 

Manoel Rangel’s story, here translated into English for the first time, is but one of a compendium of Portuguese maritime disasters released by the Vatican in the 18th century, and the only one that involved the Chagos islands, still of current interest to British (and American) readers. In July 2022, Rangel’s account attracted the attention of Professor Philippe Sands in his widely applauded book, The Last Colony. While only one person lost his life when the Conceição was stranded in 1555, the sufferings undergone by the survivors were utterly heart-rending: the majority starved on the spot, but three separate boatloads succeeded in reaching the Portuguese settlements of South-west India.

This book tells Rangel’s tale, setting the events in their historical context and elucidating the nautical arrangements he takes for granted. It ends with a detailed study, in which readers can join, of the conflicting evidence about where exactly the Conceição met her end.

 

The Chagos Conservation Trust (CCT) is a UK charity that conducts and promotes conservation work and scientific and historical research in the Chagos Archipelago. Its vision is to ensure that the globally important natural environment of this archipelago is well protected, conserved and understood, inspiring the better management and protection of our planet.

 

 

Ullattil Manmadhan - Maddy is a history enthusiast who writes and posts extensively on the history of the Malabar at his blogsites, Maddy’s Ramblings and Historic Alleys. A number of articles detailing Malabar-Portuguese relations can be read at Historic Alleys.

 

Nigel Wenban-Smith, a former career diplomat, whose postings included that of non-resident Commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory, is co-author of Chagos: a History (2016). That work, while airing doubts about the location of the sinking of the Conceição accepted the orthodox view that it occurred in the southern hemisphere.

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