Abstract
Duarte Barbosa on People of Malabar

Dr. KKN Kurup

Former Vice-chancellor, Calicut University

Abstract

Duarte Barbosa on People of Malabar

Malabar the western coast of India had been represented in the travel literature of Arab and the European since the earliest time of history. However such literature had been proliferated after the advent of the Portuguese who brought out engages in the socio-political and economic situations of the region. They had left voluminous literature as primary sources in the history, people, customs and manners of the region. In such literature, the writing and observations of Duarte Barbosa had an important place as he had spent long years on the coast than any other foreign traveller.

Barbosas writings on Malabar coast and the kingdoms on Indian ocean had been translated into many European languages as they were authentic source of information for expanding European nationalities engaged in maritime activities. His writings, The Book of Duarte Barbosa in it's complete form was available in 1565 C. An English translation has been published in 2017 by Dr.Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi. Earlier, an English translation had appeared in Hakluyt editions (1856) by Lord Stanley of Alderley and later on in 1918 by Mansel Longworth Dames. In 1524 it had a Spanish translation.

Barbosa's descriptions on Malabar have been translated now in Malayalam language by this author in 2018. As a writer in the Factory of Cannanore he has a thorough knowledge of maritime commerce, procedures of the region, trade in textiles and other commodities. Meticulous details of such items of trade had been described by Barbosa. When others had made observations on customs and manners, the writings left by Barbosa on Malabar included detailed account of price, availability, nature of trade, customs etc. In brief they depict many details of economic activities of the region. When many such details of Malabar had been gone into oblivion, these writings of Barbosa serve as authentic sources to reconstruct the economic history of Malabar during the early 16th century. He had also provided minute observation of existing caste system, lineage, ruling authority, privileges of the elite etc. In a brief, his longest text on Malabar has an international reputation in the travel literature. However his observations had been coloured by Christian religious attitudes of medieval period, particularly evaluating the Asiatic religions being one of paganism. See the Portuguese activities in the western coast of Malabar in KKN Kurup, 'Heritage Ship building and the maritime activities of Malabar coast', Lipi Publications, Calicut, 2018.