In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • The Portuguese Slave Trade in Early Modern Japan: Merchants, Jesuits and Japanese, Chinese, and Korean Slaves by Lúcio de Sousa
  • Jan Leuchtenberger (bio)
The Portuguese Slave Trade in Early Modern Japan: Merchants, Jesuits and Japanese, Chinese, and Korean Slaves. By Lúcio de Sousa. Brill, Leiden, 2019. xiv, 594 pages. €180.00, cloth; €180.00, E-book.

Much has been written about Iberian trade with Japan in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but few of those sources mention the fact that the [End Page 193] Portuguese ships often carried Chinese, Japanese, and Korean slaves from Japan to Macau and beyond. In fact, as Lúcio de Sousa points out in this significant study, for several decades in the late sixteenth century, the port of Nagasaki became the center of a lucrative Portuguese trade in Asian slaves, for which the Society of Jesus initially provided some support before working to end it at the turn of the century. In the absence of any single documentary source on the slave trade, de Sousa has consulted Portuguese and Spanish legal cases, Inquisition records, government reports, and census data, as well as Jesuit letters and reports, to pull together an account of a practice about which little has been known until now. In doing so, he has been able to demonstrate how an initially disorganized trade, primarily in Chinese abducted by pirates, evolved into a complex system managed by Portuguese merchants in Macau that in some years transported thousands of Japanese and Korean slaves to be sold in places as far away as Manila, Goa, Europe, and even Latin America. In addition to providing a comprehensive look at the slave trade itself, the study offers new information about Jesuit involvement in it and about Japanese, Korean, and Chinese diasporas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

As Thomas Nelson has shown, forms of slavery existed in Japan long before the arrival of the Portuguese.1 In medieval Japan, Japanese people were enslaved for a variety of reasons, as were captives from Korea and China. The practice may have been in place before the arrival of the Portuguese, but as de Sousa notes in his introduction, the term "slave" was understood differently in European and Asian cultures of the time. The laws under which the Portuguese operated granted fewer rights to slaves than did Japanese laws and often erased the difference between "ownership of bodies and ownership of labor" (p. 6). Another important difference from medieval Japanese slave practices was that the Portuguese were taking Asian slaves far from their homes, with no prospect of returning. This latter point was noted by the Japanese ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi in his communication with the Jesuits leading up to the expulsion edict of 1587, in which he objected to the Portuguese depriving the Japanese of their country, their families, and their friends. Though Japanese canvassers and brokers were punished by Hideyoshi at the time, the expulsion of the Iberians was not enforced, and Portuguese traders continued to buy Chinese, Japanese, and Korean men and women and transport them around the world into the seventeenth century.

In the first four chapters of the book, the author outlines four major stages in the Portuguese slave trade and the various political, economic, and social changes that influenced those stages. In the first, from 1520 to [End Page 194] 1569, trade was relatively unregulated, and the majority of slaves bought in that period were abducted from China and sold to the Portuguese in Japan. According to de Sousa, some of the earliest Western references to slaves in records of this time were by priests who objected to Portuguese taking Chinese and Japanese women back to Macau. In fact, enough complaints reached Portugal that King Sebastian issued an edict in 1570 forbidding the enslavement of Japanese people. However, powerful merchants in Goa and Macau ignored restrictions on this lucrative business, and the ban was difficult to enforce from Europe. Not only did the slave trade continue unabated, it actually expanded. In the second stage (1570–92), most of the slaves sold in Nagasaki were prisoners and refugees from the constant wars among the Kyushu daimyō. The proportion of Japanese slaves declined...