Duarte Barbosa

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Duarte Barbosa
Born c. 1480
Lisbon, Kingdom of Portugal
Died 1 May 1521
Cebu, Philippines
Nationality Portuguese
Occupation Writer, scrivener, explorer
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Duarte Barbosa (c. 1480, Lisbon, Portugal – 1 May 1521, Philippines) was a Portuguese writer and Portuguese India officer between 1500 and 1516–1517, with the post of scrivener in Cannanore factory and sometimes interpreter of the local language (Malayalam). His Book of Duarte Barbosa (Livro de Duarte Barbosa) is one of the earliest examples of Portuguese travel literature, written c. 1516, shortly after the arrival in the Indian Ocean. In 1519 Duarte Barbosa embarked on the first expedition to circumnavigate the world, led by his brother-in-law Ferdinand Magellan, dying in 1521 at the feast of rajah Humabon in Cebu at the Philippines Island[1]

First travel and the Book of Duarte Barbosa

Duarte Barbosa was the son of Diogo Barbosa, a server of D. Álvaro of Braganza who went to India in 1501 in a joint venture of D. Álvaro with Bartholomeu Marchionni, in the 3rd Portuguese India Armada captained by João da Nova. In 1500 his uncle Gonçalo Gil Barbosa, after traveling in the 1500 fleet of Pedro Álvares Cabral, was left as factor in Kochi, and in 1502 was transferred to Kannur. The places described by Duarte Barbosa suggest that he had accompanied his uncle on this trip to Kochi and Cannanore. There Duarte Barbosa learned the local Malabar language (malayalam). In 1503 he was the interpreter of Francisco de Albuquerque in contacts with the Rajah of Cannanore. In 1513 he signed as clerk of Cannanore a letter to King Manuel I of Portugal where he claimed for himself the position master-clerk that had been promised. In 1514 Afonso de Albuquerque used his services as an interpreter in an attempt to convert the king of Kochi, as reported in his letter to the king. In 1515 Albuquerque sent Duarte Barbosa to Kozhikode to oversee the construction of two ships that would serve on an expedition to the Red Sea, in which he may have later participated under the new governor. Duarte Barbosa returned to Portugal where he completed the manuscript known as the "Book of Duarte Barbosa", finished in 1516 according to Ramusio preface, where he wrote detailed accounts of foreign cultures. Originally known through the testimony of Italian Giovanni Battista Ramusio, the original manuscript was discovered and published in the early nineteenth century in Lisbon.

Circumnavigation with Magellan

Displeased by the position he had never been assigned, Barbosa joined several Portuguese meeting in Seville in southern Spain. His father, Diogo Barbosa, had followed D. Álvaro of Braganza into exile in Seville where Álvaro had become mayor, becoming himself governor of the castle of Seville. In 1516 Ferdinand Magellan moved to Seville and become a friend to Diogo Barbosa, both sharing the experience of travel to India. Soon Magellan married Barbosa's sister Beatriz, becoming Duarte Barbosa's brother in law, strengthening the links between the Barbosa and Magalhães families.

On 10 August 1519 Duarte Barbosa sailed from Seville on of Magellan's voyage of circumnavigation, along with his friend João Serrão. His curiosity lead him on several times on the voyage to leave the expedition in the company of locals, to Ferdinand Magellan's annoyance, and Magellan even came to arrest him. On 2 April 1520, however, the help of Duarte Barbosa was crucial to facing down a riot in Puerto San Julian (Argentina), and thereafter Barbosa become captain of the Victoria. According to Antonio Pigafetta's account, after Magellan's death on 21 April 1521 at the Battle of Mactan (Philippines), Duarte Barbosa, one of the few survivors of the battle, was made co-commander of the expedition along with João Serrão. Barbosa had tried to recover Magellan's body, without success: according to that report, he tried to land Enrique of Malacca, which he gave up. Despite the manumission he was entitled to according to Magellan's will made before departure, Duarte Barbosa or João Serrão[2] then threatened to turn him slave to the widow of Magellan. The fear of Enrique has since been considered an argument for him conspiring with rajah Humabon. On 1 May 1521 all were invited by the rajah to a banquet ashore near Cebu, the Philippines, to receive a gift for the king of Spain. There was killed or poisoned, among many others, Duarte Barbosa. João Serrão was brought by natives who wanted to exchange him for weapons, but was left behind, being saved only the pilot João Carvalho. Enrique disappeared since.


  1. One theory suggests that there were two people named Duarte Barbosa, on the basis of subsequent reporting of João de Barros in "Decades of Asia", that refers to one clerk named Duarte Barbosa in 1529 in Cannanore Island. The majority of documents confirm, however, that the author of "The Book of Duarte Barbosa" and participant in the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan Island where the same, see the entry for "Duarte Barbosa, Mansel Longworth Dames, The Book of Duarte Barbosa: An account of the countries bordering on the Indian Ocean and their inhabitants ", Asian Educational Services, 1989, ISBN 81-206-0451-2
  2. Pigafetta and Transylvanus differ on who was responsible for the massacre that occurred at Cebu in the Philippines. Transylvanus states that it was Juan Serrano who mistreated Enrique de Malacca, Magellan's former slave, thereby causing Enrique to plot the massacre; Pigafetta, who did not attend the banquet that served as the trap, blames Duarte Barbosa.


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