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

15 By taking to the sea, Moreno was following an ancient and illustrious tradition . Motivated by faith, greed, and glory, Italian missionaries, explorers, and traders had since the thirteenth century been among the first Europeans to undertake the arduous journeys over land and sea to East Asia. The most famous was Marco Polo, whose book Il milione (The Travels of Marco Polo, 1271) remained the most important source of information about Asia for hundreds of years. Certainly Celso, who cited Marco Polo as his model, had read it.1 For centuries, Venice and Genoa were the terminuses of the spice trade with Asia. Each year, tons of pepper, cloves, tea, coffee, and sugar were unloaded on their docks and then sold throughout Europe. As a result of their monopoly of these commodities, the cities enjoyed enormous wealth, visible in the form of lavish churches and palaces. In 1497, though, the vision of Prince Henry of Portugal was realized when Vasco da Gama sailed along the African coast around the Cape of Good Hope and into the Indian Ocean. The new commercial route favored the Atlantic countries: Portugal, Spain, England, and, above all, the Netherlands. Commerce in Venice and Genoa declined, and the cities lost their glamour and riches. By c h a p t e r 2 The Treasures of Asia 16 The Treasures of Asia the mid–nineteenth century, however, an increasing number of ships flying the Sardinian flag sailed in the Indian Ocean, the seas of China, and the East Indies.2 Moreno followed in the wake of new Genoese mariners when he hauled anchor. In the beginning, the Mediterranean was his zone of activity, but soon after he made his way to the Cape of Good Hope, the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea, and finally, India. Though only in his mid-twenties, he was captain of his own ship. We do not know the precise dates of his voyage, the name of his ship, or the cargo it was carrying, and the news, provided by Faldella, that Moreno traded in India with Garibaldi before 1859, seems rather suspect.3 It is certain, however, that it was a long voyage. It could take as long as six months to cover a distance of about 12,400 miles. What was he doing and thinking during those many days? Did he fantasize, like many of his contemporaries, of becoming the white lord of a kingdom, worshiped by his dark-skinned subjects, bedecked with jewels, surrounded by maidens ready to fulfill his every desire? By the 1850s, many Italian sea captains were trading with India, the Malaysian archipelago, Cochinchina, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and even Australia. As the mercantile center of the thriving commerce between India and Italy, Calcutta already had a modest Italian community. Moreno settled in this cosmopolitan, tumultuous port city, where he soon found himself at the center of a controversy that reached back to Turin. The Kingdom of Savoy established its first Asian consulate in Calcutta in 1841, which in turn spurred a network of consular posts in India, China, and the South Seas. Giovanni Casella, a successful merchant, skillfully served as consul from the beginning.4 Another well-known and respected representative of the Italian community in Calcutta was a missionary, Father Vincenzo Bruno. A Piedmontese from the province of Ivrea, he had joined the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, a congregation that had sent missionaries to Asia for a long time. In 1839, while still a young man, Bruno was assigned to evangelize a vast territory in India and Burma, a task to which he dedicated the rest of his life.5 Arriving in Calcutta in June 1859, Moreno was soon involved in a bitter dispute with both Casella and Bruno. At that time, Italian patriots’ passionate opposition to the pope’s secular power generated great tensions between the Vatican and the kingdom. In this heated situation, an article appeared in Turin’s Gazzetta del Popolo on January 17, 1860, that accused Consul General Casella of being the first to subscribe to a fund for the Pope’s relief, an act contrary to the government’s policy. The article also criticized the morality of the missionaries in Calcutta, describing them as The Treasures of Asia 17 “womanizers.” Alessandro Borella, a member of the Chamber of Deputies and the letter’s alleged author, announced a parliamentary interpellation into the Sardinian state of affairs in Calcutta.6 What had been a clash of personalities in...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.