Defending Macau

Trade Center Became a Target for Rivals

Facing threats from the English and Dutch, Macau needed to bolster its defenses against these rival countries.

Years:  1586 — 1626

The union of Portugal and Spain meant that the Portuguese colonies became targets for England and the Netherlands. The English had ambitions to set up trading posts in East Asia, and the British East India Company, created in 1600, fostered many actions focused on limiting the Portuguese influence in Asia and Macau.

The Netherlands was embroiled at the time in a lengthy struggle for its independence from Spain. After the Dutch East India Company was founded in 1602, the Dutch unsuccessfully attacked Macau several times, culminating in a full-scale invasion attempt in 1622 when 800 attackers were successfully repelled by 150 Macanese and Portuguese defenders with a large number of African slaves. The Jesuits, who  feared the Protestant Dutch, were instrumental in helping to defend Macau. The attempted Dutch invasion was seen as a threat to their epic missionary activities in Asia.

After the Dutch attack, the Portuguese bolstered the defenses of Macau with the building of "Fortaleza do Monte" (Fortress on the Mount) in 1626. This huge bastion high above the city was considered impregnable in 17th century military terms, but its strength was never tested as it never saw military action.

One of the most important and enduring institutions of Portuguese Macau was its "Câmara" (municipal council), universally known locally as the "Leal Senado" (Loyal Senate), established in 1586 by the Viceroy of India. Council members came from the leading families in the community, and it was a mark of honor to be a "vereador" (council member). The role of "procurador" (procurator) was highly-important, as he was the Senate's representative in all dealings with the Chinese.

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