Of all the remarkable people who first opened up the rest of the world to the Europeans Columbus, Magellan, Vasco da Gama, Pizarro and Cortes Afonso de Albuquerque, governor of Portuguese India from 1509 to 1515, was one of the most astonishing. He was a commander of bold strategic conceptions, a far-sighted administrator and in addition a talented writer, whose dispatches to King Manuel contain a wealth of spontaneous narrative, description and pungent comment. Caesar of the East is a specially edited anthology, based on the original Portuguese texts, of selections from these dispatches, or Cartas , and from the Comentarios (Commentaries) written by Albuquerque's son, also called Afonso, about his father's career, with new English translations of both. In the introduction Dr Villiers evaluates the part that Albuquerque played in the foundation of the Portuguese empire in Asia, and Dr Earle provides a literary analysis of the contrasting styles of the Cartas and the Comentarios , where the father's informality and spontaneity contrast fascinatingly with his son's carefully contrived and highly literary narrative. Historical and geographical notes help the reader to understand the text.
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