Author: Diogo do Couto
Extent: 256 pp
Publication: October 2016
Publisher: Tagus Press
Fraud, scandal, theft of royal funds, official graft, and cover-ups: these are the subjects of the 1612 exposé written by Diogo do Couto in his Dialog of a Veteran Soldier. Couto revealed too much and as a result, this work had to wait more than 175 years until its first publication in 1790.
This classic of overseas Portuguese history is a well-known source cited by historians of Portuguese Asia, yet it has remained beyond the reach of a larger audience until this translation — its first into any other language.
Couto was never rewarded with any of the prized positions that viceroys and governors (according to him) showered on their underlings. This Dialog is his bitter response. In it, we can see the workings of official and informal administration of Portuguese Asia as well as the numerous remedies Couto suggests to correct these abuses.
This careful, erudite, and stylish translation of Diogo do Couto’s O Soldado Prático is of signal importance. Known for his chronicles of India, essays, eulogies, and poetry, Couto lived for fifty-five years in Asia as a soldier, a royal officer, an archivist, and a respected citizen who publicly received the viceroys. His pivotal role as both the voice of the Portuguese elite in Goa and agent of the King turns Couto’s critical assessment of the problems of the Estado da Índia into compulsory reading for any student of the Portuguese empire. Francisco Bethencourt, Charles Boxer Professor, King’s College London
Timothy Coates is to be praised for having prepared a long-awaited and impeccable English translation of one of the key texts to understanding the social world of the Portuguese empire in Asia in the early seventeenth century. Myriad ‘veteran soldiers’ existed and even penned similar writings. But Diogo do Couto’s fictional dialogue rests unrivaled. The present edition is the best gift that all those interested in the social history of the Estado da Índia could receive on the occasion of the four-hundredth anniversary of Couto’s death. Jorge Flores, professor of early modern global history, European University Institute, Florence