Flávio Miranda: 'Portugal's maritime trade, 1250-1500.'

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

When presented by the webinar’s question of ‘what happens when history is evoked in conflicts?’, Flávio Miranda explored history as an argument from the perspective of those involved in Portugal’s maritime trade between 1250-1500. In particular, our attention was turned towards the tumultuous trade relations between the Portuguese and English, where the escalation of conflicts was often accompanied by violence at sea. Miranda found that when primary sources in the case of Portuguese maritime trade present a reference to history, it was often used to connect the (wider) context of relations to the current situation.

The shared history between Portugal and England was linked to contemporary quarrels during political and commercial conflicts. One of the general conceptions of the late medieval period to keep in mind was that there were “God-given differences” and consequential perpetual clashes between nations due to their shared history of disputes. Continuous challenges by pirates and privateers for Portuguese merchants traversing the Channel could lead to retaliations based on past injustices. Similarly, reflections to recent history were used as a warning for the present and future of the relations between countries and their citizens involved in trade.

However, another intriguing approach can also be found in the sources. Miranda highlighted the very discrete use of historical references in petitions by Portuguese merchants to the English court, where they emphasized their trust in the peace and friendship between their countries while referencing treaties of commerce and their continued validity. Their petitions and calls for compensation were justified due to the history of friendship between the countries, which the English attacks at sea did not abide to.    

Old conflicts had an additional use for conflict management: sometimes by invoking the past memory of a previous mercantile complaint, the Portuguese merchants aimed to resolve current similar problems. When faced with problems at English customs, for example, Portuguese merchants presented information about how these problems had been previously solved and referenced the people that had been involved and the decision made by them. Their knowledge of the history of preceding contacts with local officials and the process of solving such conflicts was presented as arguments to the king.

Flávio Miranda on academia.edu

(Ester Zoomer)


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