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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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Conversion Diplomacy

Conversion Diplomacy

Lankan Imperial Projects and the Politics of Catholic Universalism

(p.94) 4 Conversion Diplomacy
(Dis)connected Empires

Zoltán Biedermann

Oxford University Press

Chapter 4 explores the ways in which rulers and princes across Sri Lanka followed Bhuvanekabāhu’s initiative and engaged diplomatically with the Portuguese empire. Conversion to Catholicism became a key diplomatic tool during the 1540s. This served the interests of Lankan rulers and princes in the short term, helping them to transfuse imperial ideas into the Portuguese sphere, but also prepared the ground for larger transformations in the longer run, driven by Catholic Universalism. Sri Lanka as a territory of the mind began to emerge among the Portuguese, combining Lankan ideas of the island as a repository of cakravarti emperorship with a novel notion of spiritual conquest. This chapter explores a range of local contexts including diplomacy in Sītāvaka, Kandy, Jaffna, and smaller polities such as Batticaloa. Emphasis is again on local diplomatic agency.

Keywords:   Empire, diplomacy, conversion, Catholic Universalism, Jesuits, Franciscans, geographical imagination, communication, territory, go-betweens

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