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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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The Matrioshka Principle and Its Discontents

The Matrioshka Principle and Its Discontents

Connecting Imperial Ideas Across the Continents

(p.67) 3 The Matrioshka Principle and Its Discontents
(Dis)connected Empires

Zoltán Biedermann

Oxford University Press

Chapter 3 explains on what grounds Lankan rulers remained committed to the idea of co-opting the Portuguese through tributary diplomacy, against the backdrop of a growing regional conflict involving the Muslim Mappilas of South India. Negotiations culminated in 1542 with the reception in Lisbon of an embassy sent by king Bhuvanekabāhu VII of Kōṭṭe to John III of Portugal. In addition to a magnificent ivory casket, significant archival materials survive today to give us a detailed picture of how the inter-imperial deal was imagined in the Lankan capital along the lines of the principle of nesting empires, the ‘Matrioshka principle’. These papers also show the limitations of the conversation. A picture emerges that is at once astounding in the way it contains two very different but commensurable imperial models, and ominous in the way these two models do not quite talk to each other in the way the elite of Kōṭṭe expected.

Keywords:   go-betweens, translation, geographical imagination, diplomacy, art, war, Muslims, trade, cooperation, misunderstanding

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