This study of the Portuguese commercial empire in India during the Hapsburg years is the most serious attempt yet made to analyses the old Portuguese pepper trade-from the planting of orchards in the foothills of Malabar and Kanara to the unloading of spice-laden carracks in Lisbon. Equally significant, it is the first book to explain how and why the Portuguese were not able to modernize their trade systems when faced with crisis conditions.
The distress that confronted the Portuguese following the arrival of the Dutch and English, seen here as partly military but fundamentally economic and organizational, reached its decisive stage in the 1620s and early 1630s. The Portuguese attempts to combat the crisis by creating their own India Company. The story of that company and the reasons for its failure are thoroughly investigated as Disney looks at its antecedents, composition, activities and weaknesses.
The author has unearthed much new statistical material from widely scattered manuscript sources and in doing so sheds new light on related problems and issues, such as institutional relations between Spain and Portugal, the careers of individual merchants and the nature and difficulties of vice regal government in Portuguese India.