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The inventories of the Madre de Deus: tracing Asian material culture in early modern England

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Abstract

This article examines the impact made by the taking of the ship Madre de Deus in 1592 on the circulation of Asian material culture in England. As a Portuguese cargo ship on its way from Goa, the Madre de Deus was filled with precious and exotic objects – an immense treasure for the English privateers who seized it. An examination of the extensive archival record generated by the ship’s capture allows for a reconstruction of the cargo. Probing inventories and other documents for their material and formal qualities as much as for their contents, the article argues that written documents became an instrument with which the English authorities tried to control the uncontrollable movements of the booty. The pathways subsequently followed by some of the items recovered are traced, and the question of how they affected England’s artistic culture is addressed.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-223
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the History of Collections
Volume32
Issue number2
Early online date16 Apr 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

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