The oldest alliance: a material exploration of early modern English-Portuguese relationships
thesisposted on 09.07.2015, 10:25 by Sarah Rose Newstead
Social and economic ties between England and Portugal stretch back to the 12th century. Focusing on the 16th and 17th centuries, this thesis traces relationships between the two countries for a period which has received little scholarly attention from historians, adding material culture as a new source of evidence to describe historic Anglo-Luso interactions. Plymouth, UK, holds the largest collection of Portuguese ceramics recovered archaeologically in Britain. These provide a nuanced insight on the breadth of England’s consumption of Portuguese goods during the 16th and 17th centuries. English acquisition of Portuguese products is a difficult activity to track in the available documents, as many of these objects flowed into English markets and households unrecorded. Routes and reasons for the trade of these ceramics to Plymouth are discussed with the aim of situating the port within the complex networks of the early modern Atlantic World. The general factors influencing the English acquisition of Portuguese ceramics are also explored. Building upon the ceramic case-study at Plymouth, a broader discussion is presented, engaging with Portugal’s material and socioeconomic influence on early modern Atlantic networks with a particular focus on the period of Iberian Crown Union. Beyond the discussion of English-Portuguese interaction, this thesis also provides practical information for the future identification of Portuguese earthenwares recovered archaeologically in the UK. This information includes a form typology and production zone provenance criteria. Finally, the research presented here provides an excellent case-study for the integration of text and material evidence in the study of early modern transnational and transcultural interaction.