SOUSA, Manuel de (?-1537)
Son of Gonçalo de Sousa, the Labrador, one of the regents of Évora. He apparently had no experience overseas when, in October of 1527, King John III appointed him commodore of the armada of Ormuz. In the following year, he sailed from Lisbon to the Orient aboard the armada of Governor Nuno da Cunha, who would invite him to abandon his post in 1529.
Establishing the Portuguese presence in the region of Guzerate in India was one of the main tasks that Nuno da Cunha undertook, in an area where the port of Diu had geo-strategic and commercial importance. From 1529 to 1531, the governor would lead military campaigns in this area with the active participation of Manuel de Sousa in the role of naval commander. As the chronicler João de Barros suggested, it is possible that Manuel de Sousa was prompted to abandon the post of commodore of the armada of Ormuz in order to be appointed head of the Portuguese fortress of Diu. Meanwhile, this nobleman was the commander of the armada of Malabar in 1531 and in 1534 and was the commodore of the sea of the recently-created fortress of Chale (1531-1532).
In September of 1534, the arrival of a new provincial governor of India, Martim Afonso de Sousa, cousin to Manuel, consolidated the Portuguese presence in Guzerate. In 1535, the local sultan, pressured on land by the Imperial Mogul, agreed to the construction of a Portuguese fortress in Diu in exchange for being relieved of military aid. Martim Afonso headed the Portuguese contingent, which included Manuel de Sousa. The political connections between them would reinforce their family ties. Due to this, the former would praise the latter and made pleas for mercy in letters sent to King John II and to Dom António de Ataíde, another cousin who was a tax authority and the first count of Castanheira.
Given this context, along with the rivalry between Nuno da Cunha and Martim Afonso, it is not surprising that the captaincy of Diu should have been awarded to Manuel de Sousa. In time, sultan Bahadur Shah would express reserve about the Portuguese installation. As tension increased, a meeting between the Muslim sovereign and Governor Nuno da Cunha was organized at the end of 1537 off of Diu. As the sultan was being transferred to land, a struggle broke out between the Portuguese forces and the Guzerates that were in the same sea vessel. As a result, the sultan and Manuel de Sousa fell overboard and drowned. This episode led the Ottomans to attack Diu in the following year.
ALAM, Muzaffar & Sanjay Subrahmanyam, «Letters from a Sinking Sultan», in Aquém e Além da Taprobana. Estudos Luso-Orientais à Memória de Jean Aubin e Denys Lombard, ed. Luís Filipe F. R. Thomaz, Lisboa, CHAM-FCSH-UNL, 2002, pp. 239-269.
CARVALHO, Andreia Martins de, Nuno da Cunha e os Capitães da Índia (1529-1538), Lisboa, FCSH-UNL, 2006, dissertação de mestrado policopiada.
PELÚCIA, Alexandra, Martim Afonso de Sousa e a sua Linhagem ? A Elite Dirigente do Império Português nos Reinados de D. João III e D. Sebastião, Lisboa, UNL-FCSH, 2007, dissertação de doutoramento policopiada.
Author: Alexandra Pelúcia
Translation: Rosa Simas