The Portuguese encounter with the peoples of South Asia and Brazil set foundational precedents for European imperialism. Jesuit missionaries were key participants in both regions. As they sought to reconcile three commitments to local missionary spaces, to a universal Church and to the global Portuguese empire the Jesuits forged a religious vision of empire.
Ananya Chakravarti explores both indigenous and European experiences to show how these missionaries learned to negotiate everything with the diverse peoples they encountered and that nothing could simply be imposed. Yet Jesuits repeatedly wrote home in language celebrating triumphal impositions of European ideas and practices upon indigenous people. In the process, while empire was built through distinctly ambiguous interactions, Europeans came to imagine themselves in imperial moulds. In this dynamic, in which the difficult lessons of empire came to be learned and forgotten repeatedly, Chakravarti demonstrates an enduring and overlooked characteristic of European imperialism.