Emigration and the Sea

An Alternative History of Portugal and the Portuguese

April 2015 9781849044165 256pp


Today Portuguese is the seventh most widely spoken language in the world and Brazil is a new economic powerhouse. Both phenomena result from the Portuguese ‘Discoveries’ of the 15th and 16th centuries, and the Catholic missions that planted Portuguese communities in every continent. Some were part of the Portuguese empire but many survived independently under other rulers with their own Creole languages and indigenised Portuguese culture. In the 19th and 20th centuries these were joined by millions of economic migrants who established Portuguese settlements in Europe, North America, Venezuela and South Africa – and in less likely places, including Bermuda, Guyana and Hawaii.

Interwoven within this global history of the diaspora are stories of the Portuguese who left mainland Portugal and the islands, the lives of the Sephardic Jews, the African slaves imported into the Atlantic Islands and Brazil and the Goans who later spread along the imperial highways of Portugal and Britain. Much of Portugal’s contribution to science and the arts, as well as its influence in the modern world, can be attributed to the members of these widely scattered Portuguese communities, and these are given their due in Newitt’s engrossing volume.


‘An impressive piece of work. Written in a lucid, economical style, Newitt offers a thorough survey of the history of Portuguese emigration to Europe, the Americas, the Atlantic islands, Africa and Asia. His book has many virtues: clarity in tackling a complex and contentious topic, an impressive amount of research into printed sources, a mastery of statistics, and well-argued theses about big questions such as the much debated contrast between creative forces in Portugal’s scattered, overseas empire vs. stagnation and decadence in continental Portugal.’ — Douglas Wheeler, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of New Hampshire

‘Nobody has previously attempted to distil 500 years of Portuguese diasporic history as Malyn Newitt has done here, not even in Portuguese. Eminently readable, and rich in detail and telling quotes, Newitt offers a fascinating and essential narrative.’ — Onésimo Almeida, Professor of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, Brown University

Emigration and the Sea cements Malyn Newitt’s reputation as one of the leading scholars of Portugal’s history of globalisation, in Africa and beyond. It is a beautifully written and timely contribution to the understanding of Portugal’s diasporic history, grounded in decades of research and thought.’ — Toby Green, Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture, King’s College London


Malyn Newitt was deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, and the first holder of the Charles Boxer Chair, King's College London. He has authored more than twenty books on Portugal and Portuguese colonial history, including A Short History of Mozambique and Emigration and the Sea, both published by Hurst.

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