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(Dis)connected EmpiresImperial Portugal, Sri Lankan Diplomacy, and the Making of a Habsburg Conquest in Asia$
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Zoltán Biedermann

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198823391

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198823391.001.0001

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Lords of the Land, Lords of the Sea

Lords of the Land, Lords of the Sea

Establishing an Imperial Dialogue Against the Odds

(p.37) 2 Lords of the Land, Lords of the Sea
(Dis)connected Empires

Zoltán Biedermann

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 highlights the early obstacles to the unfolding of a Lankan-Portuguese inter-imperial dialogue. It dwells on the contrast between the lack of curiosity shown by early Portuguese agents of empire in Ceylon, and the vivid interest taken by the Lankan elites in the Portuguese. While Ceylon disappeared from the Portuguese imperial imagination, in a process that is most visible in the development of Portuguese cartography, the elite of the kingdom of Kōṭṭe, which operated on grounds of the concept of tributary overlordship, attempted to entice Portuguese leaders into visiting the island. This inverts the logic of traditional narratives of the first encounter. Requests were soon made to the reluctant Portuguese for the establishment of a military base at Colombo, which, it was hoped, would help consolidate the authority of the ruler of Kōṭṭe in a highly unstable political environment, against the fierce competition of other Lankan rulers, and amidst internal, factional strife.

Keywords:   first encounter, imperial imagination, cartography, empire, cakravarti, tribute, overlordship, diplomacy, ethnicity, warfare

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