The Great Albuquerque

No, not the city in New Mexico, but the Portuguese conqueror of Goa and Malacca: Affonse da Alboquerque, to be precise.

Needless to say, I’ve been a bit pre-occupied the last several days, head buried in a bunch of 19th century accounts of travelers running amok–now there is a word with one hell of an etymology, but you’ll have to wait for the book for that story–up and down the Malay Peninsula. And then, there is this guy Alboquerque, or Albuquerque for you spelling Nazis out there.

He was a real piece of work.

In a nutshell, Alboquerque was ordered by the King of Portugal to capture Aden, at the mouth of the Red Sea. The strategic rationale was pretty solid: cut off Moorish/Egyptian shipping of spices in the Red Sea and thus cut Venice–who shipped all the pepper and cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg from Alexandria, into the Mediterranean–out of the spice trade altogether. Trade was equally as cutthroat then as it is now.

Affonso was on his way to do his duty by the king when a report came in that the Sultan of Malacca had razed the Portuguese warehouse in Malacca and taken 20 Portuguese hostage, including Ruy de Araujo, it’s commander, or perhaps in modern parlance: the consul general.

It was late in the year and Alboquerque missed the monsoons blowing back towards Africa and Aden and thus decided to avenge Portuguese honor instead by attacking and capturing Malacca.

By an accident of weather, sometime in 1511, the great spice entrepot of Malacca was siezed by Alboquerque, 1,400 of his men and a bunch of German artillery.

The Portugeuse now maintained a chokehold on the single most strategic geographical locale of spice trade–the Straits of Malacca, that 250 mile long sliver of water between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The history of the Far East would never be the same.

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