The Observer and the Observed: Comparing Spanish and Portuguese Expeditions in the 19th and early 20th century




Code   .  CEECIND/2022.05581

Sart   .   2023
Duration   .   72 meses
Principal Investigator   .  Stephanie Marie Coo (CHAM)





Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia



CHAM — Centro de Humanidades



Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas / Universidade Nova de Lisboa

François Edmond Pâris, Le Voyage de La Favorite: Collection de Bateaux Dessinés d’après Nature 1830, 1831, 1832 (Arcueil: Anthèse, 1992), p. 29. (from the Library of Fundaçao Oriente, Lisbon, Portugal)

From images to objects, clothing, letters, poems and songs, different types of records have been preserved to document the expeditions of the Spanish and Portuguese empires. Scientific evidence was fundamental for expansion; it offered proof and justification for the civilizing and trading mission of imperial states. Within this wide array of information, historians often neglect to give sufficient focus on the scientific and personal art and tools of exploration. Measuring instruments, documentation devices, and travelling implements in the form of appropriate garments, footwear and luggage have largely been ignored.

I conceived the idea of a comparative study of Iberian expeditions after conducting preliminary research at various museums and cultural institutions in Spain and Portugal, where I discovered a woodblock library, cargo lists and product exports to Western markets, armorial screens, furniture, and textiles that depict scenes of European life in Asia, German-made measuring implements and recording tools – all of which provide insights on the different stages of expedition research and the technological responses to imperial intentionality. I noticed that masked in the stories and visual records of cultural exchanges, often told from the perspective of the observer (Paisley and Reid 2014), are local responses to clashing colonial politics. Many collections in Portugal have also neither been accessed by Philippine historians nor used as sources in comparative studies that involve, in part, Spanish Philippines.

Well-informed about the different types of archives, this project will address several gaps in historical research. First, this will compare differences in context, motivation, and priority between Spanish and Portuguese voyages in the nineteenth to early twentieth century. Second, along with identifying the visual, material, and textual data collected, this will analyze the instruments in "cabinets of curiosities" that accompanied not only the official scientific expeditions but also the voyages embarked by independent individuals with no formal ties to the empire. Third, new connections will be drawn by casting a spotlight on collections acquired during the Grand Tours and World Fairs, which have never been adequately studied or compared before. Woodblock libraries, tipos del país paintings, trade items as well as images on fans, porcelain, furniture of Spanish Philippines will be compared with that of Portuguese Goa or Macau.



The four overarching objectives of this project are: to forge original research paths by identifying new patterns and indirect connections from the assembly of album de pintura, trade paintings, coat of arms, screens, porcelain, furniture and fans; to better understand individual cultures in the context of the broader colonial presence in Asia; to assess the intellectual, historical, and publication value of the research; and, to generate collaborative dialogues on the future study and presentation of Asian collections stored in European archives.






 Stephanie Marie Coo   .   Coordenator