History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2008: Q.5 (b)

Q.5 (b) Write a short essay on: “Significance of the arrival of the Portuguese in India.” [20m]

The landing of Vasco-da-gama at Calicut in 1498 is considered as the beginning of a new phase during which the control of the ocean passed into the hands of Europeans.

Economic Significance

Indian trade and traders received a setback and ultimately the Europeans were able to establish their colonial rule and domination over India and most of the neighbouring countries. The Portuguese adopted an aggressive and violent attitude towards the Asians in general and incurred their displeasure; they displayed religious fanaticism and also resorted to slave trade.

Albuquerque seized Goa by force from its Bahamani governor in 1510 A.D., and converted it into a permanent Portuguese base on the Indian soil; Diu and Daman were acquired by them very soon afterwards. On the whole, they maintained friendly relations with the emperors of Vijayanagar and sought trade privileges from them.

The Portuguese enjoyed the monopoly of the eastern trade for over a century until they received an effective challenge from the Dutch, the French and the English in the 17th century. The Portuguese opened up India’s trade with Japan from which copper and silver were obtained.

They also demonstrated how naval power could be used to harass and hamper the trade even of such a well-developed country as India.

A direct sea-link of Europe with India replaced the virtual monopoly of Arabs and Turks over the trade in eastern goods especially spices.

The Portuguese ended the era of unarmed open sea trade in Indian water.

Scientific significance

The Portuguese encouraged agriculture. They imported productive cocunut seeds and expanded the cocunut production. The coir trade also flourished. New vegetables and trees were introduced including Papaya, Pine Apple, Cashew, Watermelon, Indian Beans and Guava.
The Portuguese could not act as a bridge for transmitting to India the science and technology which had grown in Europe since the renaissance. This was partly because the Portuguese were themselves not as deeply affected by the Renaissance as Italy and north Europe. They did, however, help to transmit a number of agricultural products from Central America, such as potato, tobacco, etc.

Cultural significance

They introduced European style in architecture, mainly in Churches and residential buildings. Bunglaws of Euopean model started to be built. The use of cosmetics and other items rose gradually. They also brought their style of dress here.

The building of forts got popular. Fort Manuel, built in 1503 at Kochi was the first fort in India built by Europeans.

The Portuguese focused on building new towns and markets. It led to the development of Calicut, Cochin and Chaliyam while old towns, such as Kollam and Kodungalloor, were relegated.

They promoted Roman Catholicism and as a part of it, established colleges in Kochi and Angamaly. Portuguese and Latin languages were promoted. They built printing press at Kochi and Vypin.

The Portuguese contributed many words to Indian languages like Malayalam and Konkani. The language got new words such as Lelam, Chavi, Vijagiri, Vikari etc from the contact with the Portuguese.

Political Significance

The political significance of Portuguese arrival was small. They were few in numbers to try to capture large territories on mainland India. Hence, they were confined to islands and coast.

They set up at Goa was controlled by Governor-General. They encouraged mixed marriages due to their small numbers and so a new Indo-Portuguese society came into being.

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