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Church and State in Seventeenth-Century Colonial Asia: Dutch-Parava Relations in Southeast India in a Comparative Perspective

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This article is a comparative study of the relationship between church and state in seventeenth-century colonial Asia in general and South India in particular. In an era when political and religious loyalties were deemed interchangeable, the division of temporal and spiritual authority over the Parava community along the Madurai coast between the Dutch and the Portuguese, respectively, stands out as a unique arrangement. By the end of the seventeenth century, an informal understanding was reached according to which Portuguese Jesuits would exercise religious authority even in areas under immediate Dutch jurisdiction, while the Calvinist Dutch would claim wordly authority over the Roman Catholic Paravas. The arrangement on the Madurai Coast is compared with Dutch policy vis-à-vis similar Indo-Portuguese Catholic communities in other Asian "conquests" where they exercised territorial jurisdiction, such as Maluku (the Moluccas), Batavia (Jakarta), and Melaka (Malacca). The Luso-Dutch accommodation in southeast India is also examined in light of English religious policy at Fort St. George, Madras (Chennai), towards local Indo-Portuguese groups. The understanding between the Protestant English and French Capuchins differed markedly from the working arrangement between the Dutch and the Portuguese Jesuits. This dual comparative framework merely serves to emphasize the singularity of the "Madurai solution."

Affiliations: 1: SUNY-College at Fredonia


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