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João de Barros

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Historian, b. in Portugal, 1496; d. 20 October, 1570. Of his early youth little is known. In 1522, he went to Mina in Portuguese Africa, and was made treasurer of the Casa da India, Mina, and Ceuta (African possessions) in 1525, and again in 1532. Here he cultivated his literary inclinations and attached himself to the Crown of Portugal by other ties than those of a faithful subordinate and accountant. At the age of twenty-four, he published a romance of the Emperor Clarimundo, a legendary ancestor of the kings of Portugal. In 1539, when Brazil had begun to be looked upon as an important accession to Portuguese colonial possessions, he obtained a grant of fifty-leagues along the coast at the mouth of the Amazon and forthwith equipped an expedition to occupy it. Ten vessels with nine hundred men, under command of Aires da Cunha, set sail for Brazil, but were wrecked at the bar of the Maranhão, and nearly everybody perished. Two sons of Barros were in the expedition, but their fate is not given. This brought Barros almost to the verge of poverty. He thereafter clung to historic studies, protected and favoured by the king, at whose instigation he wrote his classical work, "Asia", considered of value as a fine piece of Portuguese literature and for the information it affords. Besides giving an account of discovery and conquest, it touches frequently upon the earl iest attempts at Christianization by the Portuguese in their African and Asiatic possessions, the founding of churches, etc. The first decade appeared in 1552. Only three have been fully published. A fourth, of somewhat questionable authenticity, has been partly printed.

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