Medicine, Trade and Empire: Garcia de Orta's Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India (1563) in Context, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Medicine, Trade and Empire

Garcia de Orta's Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India (1563) in Context, 1st Edition

By Palmira Fontes da Costa


304 pages

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pub: 2016-03-18
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Garcia de Orta’s Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India (1563) was one of the first books to take advantage of the close relationship between medicine, trade and empire in the early modern period. The book was printed in Goa, the capital of the Portuguese empire in the East, and the city where the author, a Portuguese physician of Jewish ancestry, lived for almost thirty years. It presents a vast array of medical information on various drugs, spices, plants, fruits and minerals native to India or adjoining territories. In addition, it includes information concerning indigenous methods of healing as well as a far-reaching assessment of ancient and modern authors on Asian materia medica. Orta’s book had a market in Asia but was particularly valuable to a European audience. It soon attracted the attention of various European authors and printers by providing the basis for adaptations, commentaries and editions in various languages, prompting a successful and complex trail of medical knowledge in transit. Authored by an interdisciplinary team of prominent international scholars, the volume takes into account recent historiographical trends and provides a contextualized and innovative analysis of the histories and reception of the Colloquies. It emphasizes the value of the work to historians today as a symbol of the impact of geographical expansion and globalization in a sixteenth-century medical world.


"This volume will be an essential reference work on Orta for years to come." - Iona McCleery, University of Leeds

Table of Contents

Foreword; Introduction, Palmira Fontes da Costa; Garcia de Orta in the context of the Sephardic diaspora, Jon Arrizabalaga; Locating Garcia de Orta in the port city of Goa and the Indian Ocean world, Michael Pearson; Garcia de Orta’s Colóquios: context and afterlife of a dialogue, Ines G. Županov;A ‘pleasant banquet of words’: therapeutic virtues and alimentary consumption in Garcia de Orta's Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India, Inês de Ornellas e Castro; Between science and philology: taxonomy of errors in Garcia de Orta’s Colloquies, Isabel Soler and Juan Pimentel; Cultures of inquiry, myths of empire: natural history in colonial Goa, Hugh Cagle; Trading in medical simples and developing the new science: de Orta and his contemporaries, Harold J. Cook; Garcia de Orta and Amato Lusitano’s views on Materia Medica: a comparative perspective, António Manuel Lopes Andrade; Figuring exotic nature in 16th-century Europe: Garcia de Orta and Carolus Clusius, Florike Egmond; East Indies, West Indies: Garcia de Orta and the Spanish treatises on exotic Materia Medica, José Pardo Tomás; ‘Enduring echoes of Garcia de Orta’: The Royal Hospital Gardens in Goa and evolving hybridization in Portuguese colonial medical culture, Timothy D. Walker; Identity and the construction of memory in representations of Garcia de Orta, Palmira Fontes da Costa; Afterword, Andrew Cunningham; Index.

About the Author

Palmira Fontes da Costa holds a PhD in History of Science from the University of Cambridge and is Assistant Professor in Historiography and History of Science at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (FCT). She is also a Member of the Interuniversitary Centre of History of Science and Technology (CIUHCT, Lisbon). Her areas of expertise are the history of medicine and the history of natural history during the early modern period. She is the author of The Singular and the Making of Knowledge at the Royal Society of London in the Eighteenth Century, 2009 and, among others, the editor, of Percursos na História do Livro Médico 1450-1800, 2011 (edited with A. Cardoso) and O Corpo Insólito: Dissertações sobre Monstros no Portugal do século XVIII, 2005.

About the Series

The History of Medicine in Context

An interest in medicine is one of the constants that re-occurs throughout history. From the earliest times, man has sought ways to combat the myriad of diseases and ailments that afflict the human body, resulting in a number of evolving and often competing philosophies and practices whose repercussions spread far beyond the strictly medical sphere.

For more than a decade The History of Medicine in Context series has provided a unique platform for the publication of research pertaining to the study of medicine from broad social, cultural, political, religious and intellectual perspectives. Offering cutting-edge scholarship on a range of medical subjects that cross chronological, geographical and disciplinary boundaries, the series consistently challenges received views about medical history and shows how medicine has had a much more pronounced effect on western society than is often acknowledged. As medical knowledge progresses, throwing up new challenges and moral dilemmas, The History of Medicine in Context series offers the opportunity to evaluate the shifting role and practice of medicine from the long perspective, not only providing a better understanding of the past, but often an intriguing perspective on the present.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Asia / General
HISTORY / Modern / 17th Century