Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, Georgetown University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Chicago
The Empire of Apostles in the Old World and the New: Jesuits in Brazil and India, 1542-1697

The age of discoveries, which conventionally inaugurates the early modern era, begins with the seminal voyages of Christopher Columbus to America in 1492 and Vasco da Gama to India in 1498. The “Indies,” as these newly discovered parts of the world were called, symbolized any place which presented a challenge to Christian missionary activity. Under its framework, India, Brazil, southern Italy and other European regions occupied the same plane. Nonetheless, by the seventeenth century, this dispersive geography of the "Indies" was transformed into a hierarchical framework of global European, Christian empire. This project will trace this historical process through the lives of six Jesuit missionaries: Francis Xavier, Thomas Stephens and Baltasar da Costa in India and Manuel da Nóbrega, José de Anchieta and António Vieira in Brazil. The careers of these Jesuits, spanning the mid-sixteenth to the late seventeenth centuries, frame two key moments of crisis in the Catholic notion of universal Christian empire: the dissolution of the unity of the Church, and the end of Iberian hence Catholic domination of the enterprise of European empire, in the face of Dutch and English imperial ambition. Their lives thus parallel and reflect the arc of the first phase of European imperial enterprise in which the Roman notion of imperium was adapted to include the profession of Christianity as a mark of civility, a project in which the Jesuits played a crucial role. By examining how these three generations of Jesuit missionaries adapted to and were changed by their colonial context, I hope to trace both the development of the role of the “colonial” European and the concomitant evolution of the imaginary of global empire. On the level of methodology, the project also represents an attempt to bridge world history with biography, a resurgent field in the historical profession.