Duarte Barbosa

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Duarte Barbosa
Born c. 1480
Lisbon, Kingdom of Portugal
Died 1 May 1521
Cebu, Philippines
Nationality Portuguese
Occupation Writer, scrivener, explorer
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Duarte Barbosa (c. 1480, Lisbon, Portugal – 1 May 1521, Philippines) was a Portuguese writer and officer from Portuguese India (between 1500 and 1516). He was a scrivener in a Cannanore factory and an interpreter of the local language, Malayalam. Circa 1516, he wrote Book of Duarte Barbosa (Livro de Duarte Barbosa). The text is one of the earliest examples of Portuguese travel literature. It was written shortly after his arrival on the Indian Ocean. In 1519, Duarte Barbosa embarked on the first expedition to circumnavigate the world, led by his brother-in-law Ferdinand Magellan. He died in 1521 at the feast of rajah Humabon on Cebu Island in the Philippines.[1]

First travel and the Book of Duarte Barbosa[edit]

Duarte Barbosa was the son of Diogo Barbosa (server of D. Álvaro of Braganza), who in 1501 went to India in a joint venture with D. Álvaro, Bartholomeu Marchionni, and the 3rd Portuguese India Armada (Captained by João da Nova). In 1500 his uncle Gonçalo Gil Barbosa was left as a factor in Kochi after travelling in the 1500 fleet of Pedro Álvares Cabral. In 1502 he was transferred to Kannur. The places described by Barbosa in his writings suggest that he accompanied his uncle to Kochi and Cannanore. There, Duarte Barbosa learned the local Malabar language (malayalam). In 1503, he was the interpreter for Alfonso de Albuquerque's contact with the Rajah of Cannanore. In 1513, he signed, as Clerk of Cannanore, a letter to King Manuel I of Portugal, in which he claimed for himself the position of master-clerk, which had been promised. In 1514, Afonso de Albuquerque used his position as an interpreter to attempt to convert the King of Kochi. In 1515, Albuquerque sent Barbosa to Kozhikode to oversee the construction of two ships that would serve on an expedition to the Red Sea under the new governor. Barbosa returned to Portugal and completed his manuscript, Book of Duarte Barbosa. According to Italian writer Giovanni Battista Ramusio's preface, Barbosa completed his manuscript in 1516 with detailed accounts of foreign cultures. Previously known only through the testimony of Giovanni Battista Ramusio, the original manuscript was not discovered and published until the early nineteenth century in Lisbon, Portugal.

Circumnavigation with Magellan[edit]

Displeased by the position he had never been assigned, Barbosa joined several Portuguese meeting in Seville in southern Spain. His father, Diogo Barbosa, had followed D. Álvaro of Braganza into exile in Seville where Álvaro had become mayor, becoming himself governor of the castle of Seville. In 1516 Ferdinand Magellan moved to Seville and become a friend to Diogo Barbosa, both sharing the experience of travel to India. Soon Magellan married Barbosa's sister Beatriz, becoming Duarte Barbosa's brother in law, strengthening the links between the Barbosa and Magalhães families.

On 10 August 1519 Duarte Barbosa sailed from Seville on Magellan's voyage of circumnavigation, along with his friend João Serrão. His curiosity lead him to leave the expedition for the company of locals several times during the voyage, to Ferdinand Magellan's annoyance. Magellan even came to arrest him. On 2 April 1520, however, the help of Duarte Barbosa was crucial to facing down a riot in Puerto San Julian (Argentina), and thereafter Barbosa become captain of the Victoria. According to Antonio Pigafetta's account, after Magellan's death on 21 April 1521 at the Battle of Mactan (Philippines), Duarte Barbosa, one of the few survivors of the battle, was made co-commander of the expedition along with João Serrão. Barbosa tried to recover Magellan's body, without success: according to that report, he tried to land Enrique of Malacca, which he gave up. Despite the manumission he was entitled to according to Magellan's will made before departure, Duarte Barbosa or João Serrão[2] then threatened to turn him slave to the widow of Magellan. The fear of Enrique has since been considered an argument for him conspiring with rajah Humabon. On 1 May 1521 all were invited by the rajah to a banquet ashore near Cebu, the Philippines, to receive a gift for the king of Spain. There Duarte Barbosa, along with many others, was killed.. João Serrão was brought by natives who wanted to exchange him for weapons, but was left behind and was saved by the pilot João Carvalho. Enrique disappeared.


  1. ^ One theory suggests that there were two people named Duarte Barbosa, also known as Biggy, on the basis of subsequent reporting of João de Barros in "Decades of Asia", that refers to one clerk named Duarte Barbosa in 1529 in Cannanore Island. The majority of documents confirm, however, that the author of "The Book of Duarte Barbosa" and participant in the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan Island where the same, see the entry for "Duarte Barbosa, Mansel Longworth Dames, The Book of Duarte Barbosa: An account of the countries bordering on the Indian Ocean and their inhabitants ", Asian Educational Services, 1989, ISBN 81-206-0451-2
  2. ^ Pigafetta and Transylvanus differ on who was responsible for the massacre that occurred at Cebu in the Philippines. Transylvanus states that it was João Serrão who mistreated Enrique de Malacca, Magellan's former slave, thereby causing Enrique to plot the massacre; Pigafetta, who did not attend the banquet that served as the trap, blames Duarte Barbosa.


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