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The Visitor

The Visitor

André Palmeiro and the Jesuits in Asia

Liam Matthew Brockey

ISBN 9780674416680

Publication date: 09/15/2014

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In an age when few people ventured beyond their place of birth, André Palmeiro left Portugal on a journey to the far side of the world. Bearing the title “Father Visitor,” he was entrusted with the daunting task of inspecting Jesuit missions spanning from Mozambique to Japan. A global history in the guise of a biography, The Visitor tells the story of a theologian whose extraordinary travels bore witness to the fruitful contact—and violent collision—of East and West in the early modern era.

In India, Palmeiro was thrust into a controversy over the missionary tactics of Roberto Nobili, who insisted on dressing the part of an indigenous ascetic. Palmeiro walked across Southern India to inspect Nobili’s mission, recording fascinating observations along the way. As the highest-ranking Jesuit in India, he also coordinated missions to the Mughal Emperors and the Ethiopian Christians, as well as the first European explorations of the East African interior and the highlands of Tibet.

Orders from Rome sent Palmeiro farther afield in 1626, to Macau, where he oversaw Jesuit affairs in East Asia. He played a crucial role in creating missions in Vietnam and seized the opportunity to visit the Chinese mission, trekking thousands of miles to Beijing as one of China’s first Western tourists. When the Tokugawa Shogunate brutally cracked down on Christians in Japan—where neither he nor any Westerner had power to intervene—Palmeiro died from anxiety over the possibility that the last Jesuits still alive would apostatize under torture.


  • André Palmeiro (1569–1635) is one of the forgotten men of Jesuit history… Liam Brockey’s major interpretative biography deserves to achieve a reversal of this neglect… Brockey’s colorful and meticulously researched travel narrative takes us with him to South India and Sri Lanka, Macau and Beijing, as well as to other fields for which Palmeiro had responsibility but never visited in person… In his extended discussion of the principle of accommodation in the Chinese context, Brockey is at his most original and controversial… This is a book with the potential to redraw the historical map of Christian missions in Asia. It is the product of exhaustive archival and library research in Rome and Lisbon. It is also beautifully illustrated and engagingly written. Liam Brockey has reminded us that the most significant Christian missionary enterprise of early modern times depended for its stability and survival on ecclesiastical bureaucrats. André Palmeiro, God’s mandarin, deserves his place in historical memory alongside the more charismatic figures of Xavier, de Nobili and Ricci.

    —Brian Stanley, Times Literary Supplement


  • Liam Matthew Brockey is Professor of History at Michigan State University.

Book Details

  • 528 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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