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“He who writes histories must make the efforts that I made and see the land that he is to write about, as I saw it, for so was it done by ancient and modern historians…Very supernatural must be the talented man who will know how to write about things that he never did.” — Fernão Castanheda

Historia del descubrimiento y conquista de la India por los Portugueses
Fernão Lopes de Castanheda (d. 1559)
En Anvers: En casa de Martin Nucio, MDLIIII (1554)
Second edition

Fernão Lopes de Castanheda’s History of the Portuguese Discovery and Conquest of India is one of the earliest Western European chronicles of Portuguese expansion into Asia. Castanheda left Portugal in 1528 to serve as a scribe in Goa. He traveled Asia extensively. After returning home ten years later, he became administrative officer at the University of Coimbra, acting as archivist. In that capacity he gathered his personal experiences along with other eye-witness accounts, interviews and library documents.

Castanheda wrote the history of the Portuguese in Asia beginning with the travels of Vasco de Gama and focusing on the East Indies and India but also including the Portuguese conquest of Brazil by Pedro Alvares Cabral (c. 1467-c. 1520) in 1500. Cabral conducted the first substantial exploration of the Northeast coast of South America. Catanheda’s painstaking work took him twenty years to complete.

This work is divided into eight books covering roughly five years each. The first book was printed in parts in Coimbra between 1551 and 1561.

The first edition is extremely rare. Castanheda was forced, shortly after its publication, to withdraw the work from circulation because it wounded the sensibilities of some people holding high position. The Portuguese Crown sought to keep secret the nautical details about the voyage to India, but Portuguese printed histories were soon translated in whole or part in other European languages, including French, Castilian (1554), German and English (1582).