Empires begin in words… – CASINOIN -Sports betting at the casinoin betting company,casinoin online betting, casinoin bookmaker line, casinoin bookmaker bonuses, casinoin bookmaker, casinoin bookmaker, casinoin sports betting, casinoin bookmaker, casinoin bookmaker,

By Pramod K Nayar

On July 24, Pope Francis apologised for the forced schooling of indigenous children by European missionaries from the late 1800s, terming the events ‘catastrophic abuse’. His strong language, however, did not reference the origins of these heinous acts, which also began in words: the Papal Bulls from the 15th century. The Pope enunciates contrition in the 570th anniversary year of one of the earliest such documents dating back to 1452.

Pope Francis apologised for the ‘catastrophic abuse’, in the form of forced schooling, of indigenous children by Europeans in the first century of imperialism, a process initiated 570 years ago, to the day, by specific documents issued by the Vatican

Towards a Christian Imperium

Pope Nicholas V issued the bull known as Dum Diversas on 18th June 1452. The Bull stated:

“we grant to you full and free power, through the Apostolic authority by this edict, to invade, conquer, fight, subjugate the Saracens and pagans, and other infidels and other enemies of Christ, and wherever established their Kingdoms, Duchies, Royal Palaces, Principalities and other dominions, lands, places, estates, camps and any other possessions, mobile and immobile goods found in all these places and held in whatever name, and held and possessed by the same Saracens, Pagans, infidels, and the enemies of Christ, also realms, duchies, royal palaces, principalities and other dominions, lands, places, estates, camps, possessions of the king or prince or of the kings or princes, and to lead their persons in perpetual servitude….”

This edict called for dominion, conquest and slavery not just of any peoples in any part of the then discovered world, but also of any world the European adventurers may discover in the future. The edict also issues a blanket pardon for any crimes the Europeans may commit against the non-believers:

we grant … a plenary forgiveness of all and individual sins, crimes, trespasses, and digressions which you and they have confessed with contrite heart and by mouth, to you and to those who accompany you, as often as you and they happen to go into any war against the mentioned infidels”

 From this document emerged the dreams of a Christian imperii, a Christian empire, and enabled deeds of political empires. It empowered the Europeans to enslave the racial and cultural Other, to take away their lands and all possessions and effectively exterminate the Other.

 This edict is issued exactly 40 years before Christopher Columbus arrives in the ‘New World’. The edict is not just the textual anticipation of the conquest but also slavery and genocide.

The edicts are textual anticipations of actual political, economic and military actions that enabled colonialism

 Documents of Demarcation

A year after Columbus’ ‘discovery’  (discovery is what Europeans do to the non-Europeans, the non-Europeans of course discover nothing!), three other Papal Bulls were issued.

Eximiae Devotionis was issued by Pope Alexander VI on 3 May 1493. This text stated:

“But inasmuch as at another time the Apostolic See has granted divers privileges, favours, liberties, immunities, exemptions, faculties, letters, and indults to certain kings of Portugal, who also by similar Apostolic grant and donation in their favour, have discovered and taken possession of islands in the regions of Africa, Guinea, and the Gold Mine… we do by tenor of these presents… grant to you and your aforesaid heirs and successors, that in the islands and countries, already thus discovered by you or in your name and to be discovered hereafter, you may freely and legally use, employ and enjoy in all things and through all things, exactly the same as if they had been granted especially to you and your aforesaid heirs and successors, all and singular the graces and privileges, exemptions … that have been thus granted to the kings of Portugal…”

Pope Alexander VI also issued the Inter Caetera Bull a day later, on 4 May 1493, which observed that the Catholic kings and princes have been striving for the ‘recovery of the kingdom of Granada from the yoke of the Saracens’. It praises the foresight of the king and queen who chose a ‘beloved son, Christopher Columbus’, who ‘discovered certain very remote islands and even mainlands that hitherto had not been discovered by others; wherein dwell very many peoples living in peace, and, as reported, going unclothed, and not eating flesh’. It then comes to the main point:

“in order that you may enter upon so great an undertaking with greater readiness and heartiness endowed with the benefit of our apostolic favor, we, of our own accord … do by tenor of these presents, should any of said islands have been found by your envoys and captains, give, grant, and assign to you and your heirs and successors, kings of Castile and Leon, forever, together with all their dominions, cities, camps, places, and villages, and all rights, jurisdictions, and appurtenances, all islands and mainlands found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Arctic pole, namely the north, to the Antarctic pole, namely the south, no matter whether the said mainlands and islands are found and to be found in the direction of India or towards any other quarter, the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde.”

The edict hands over the newly discovered lands and their people to the European ‘discoverers’. Finally, the Inter Caetera declares:

“Moreover we command you in virtue of holy obedience that, employing all due diligence in the premises, as you also promise — nor do we doubt your compliance therein in accordance with your loyalty and royal greatness of spirit — you should appoint to the aforesaid mainlands and islands worthy, God-fearing, learned, skilled, and experienced men, in order to instruct the aforesaid inhabitants and residents in the Catholic faith and train them in good morals.”

A few months later, Pope Alexander VI issued the Dudum siquidem on 26 Sept 1493, which says:

“since it may happen that your envoys and captains, or vassals, while voyaging toward the west or south, might bring their ships to land in eastern regions and there discover islands and mainlands that belonged or belong to India… through our similar accord, knowledge, and fullness of power, by apostolic authority and by tenor of these presents … we do in like manner amplify and extend our aforesaid gift, grant, assignment, and letters, with all and singular the clauses contained in the said letters, to all islands and mainlands whatsoever, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, that are or may be or may seem to be in the route of navigation or travel toward the west or south, whether they be in western parts, or in the regions of the south and east and of India…. We grant to you and your aforesaid heirs and successors full and free power through your own authority, exercised through yourselves or through another or others, freely to take corporal possession of the said islands and countries and to hold them forever, and to defend them against whosoever may oppose…”

The Bulls organised in words, lines of control and practices of sovereignty in the ‘new’ world. As the historian H Vander Linden writing in the American Historical Review (1916) notes, all Papal Bulls of 1493 were ‘but successive increments of the favors granted to the Spanish sovereign’.

Words Dividing the World

For Linden, the Bulls represent ‘the rapid enlargement of the geographical horizon, colonial expansion, religious propaganda, the foundation of international law, the transformation of the relations between Church and State’. The Bulls textually demarcated territories and people, and were effectively instruments of political organisation. They inspired discovery, and empowered conquest.

Directed at the present but primarily at the future prospects of new(er) worlds, the Bulls are doctrines that reveal the ideology of Empire well before any European empire was actually established. They conceptualised the terra nullius – the land that belongs to no one – so as to facilitate European occupation, cleverly obscuring the fact that the lands were occupied: by indigenous people. Whether these Bulls remain influential in some subterranean form in the conquest and settlement of Australia and Canada three centuries after their issuance is a moot point, given that historians such as Robert Miller (Native America Discovered and Conquered) refer to the ‘doctrine of discovery’, an international legal principle that enabled the conquest of the north American land.

The Bulls and edicts can be seen as advancing the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’, enabling territorial acquisitions of any and every land ‘discovered’ by the Europeans

All this is about Spain and Portugal, of course. Across a small channel of water, an island-nation was not quite thinking of these prospects for a long time. However, things would change in 1600. On the last day of the year, 31 December 1600, Queen Elizabeth I issued a Charter to the Governor and Company of Merchants of London, Trading into the East Indies. The Company, eventually the East India Company, says the Charter, is free to trade

“In the countries and parts of Asia and Africa and to as many of the islands, ports and cities, towns and places, thereabouts, as where trade and traffic may by all likelihood be discovered, established or had; divers [sic] of which countries and many of the islands, cities and ports, thereof, have long been discovered by others of our subjects, albeit not frequented in trade of merchandize.”

The Charter links trade with national interest:

“We, greatly tendering the honour of our nation, the wealth of our people, and the encouragement of them, and others of our loving subjects in their good enterprizes [sic], for the increase of our navigation and the advancement of our lawful traffick to the benefit of our Commonwealth…”

Like the Papal Bulls, this Charter also proscribes acquisition of territories occupied/owned by Christian kings:

“The same trade be not undertaken nor addressed to any country, island, port, haven, city, creek, town or place, already in the lawful and actual possession of any such Christian prince or state, as this present is, or any time hereafter shall be in league or amity with us, or heirs or successors, and who doth not or will not accept such trade, but doth overtly state and publish the same to be utterly against his or their good will and liking…”

 The Charter hands over considerable powers of legislation, trade, economic transactions and control to the Company, thereby launching a mercantile empire. The East India Company, described by commentators like Nick Robins (The Corporation that Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational) and Philip Stern (The Company-State: Corporate Sovereignty and the Early Modern Foundations of the British Empire in India) as the world’s first multinational corporation, embodying a corporate sovereignty, would also divide up the world.

Words, written or pronounced from positions of authority, as we can see in the Bulls and the Charter, initiate action: words are acts.

Empires begin in words.

(The author is Professor, Department of English, University of Hyderabad)



Author: Howard Caldwell