Antonio Vieira, the Jews, and the Portuguese Empire: Cultural Common Grounds and Royal Practicality in Post-1640 Portugal

Thursday, January 3, 2019: 3:50 PM
Salon 1 (Palmer House Hilton)
Oren Okhovat, University of Florida
This presentation will explore how Portuguese Jews and New Christians remained entangled with Portuguese society even after leaving the Peninsula. Special attention will be given to the role that the Jesuit priest and diplomat, Antonio Vieira, played in serving as a channel through which prominent Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam were able to influence political, economic, and religious processes within the Portuguese empire in the seventeenth century. It also demonstrates how Portugal retained an important place in the imagination of Portuguese Jews and suggests that this community of newly converted Jews retained a cultural and political affinity for a real or imagined Portuguese homeland. Much has been published on the retention of Iberian cultural norms and Catholic religious notions among the Portuguese Jewish community of the Dutch world. Moreover, continued Portuguese Jewish economic and political activity in the Iberian Peninsula has been well documented. This research adds to these previous works by exploring how Portuguese Jews and New Christians shared a religious and cultural common ground with Portuguese Old Christians through a strong affinity for Portuguese messianism across confessional lines and through the strong economic and political impact that Portuguese Jews had on the outcome of the Portuguese independence struggle beginning in 1640. It demonstrates how this relationship undermined the Portuguese Inquisition in the second half of the seventeenth-century and traces the beginning of a trend of royal favor for economically and politically desirable agreements with non-Catholic entities that directly challenged Inquisition prerogatives.