EXPRESSO, January 24, 2004

José Gabriel Viegas

A Nau de Portugal (The Portuguese Nau)
By Filipe Vieira de Castro

The great vessels of the sixteenth century played a fundamental role in the Portuguese expansion to the Indies and, later on, in the trade with the East.
The vessel has a special place in our historic patrimony, as well as in our imagination. In spite of its importance and the countless accomplished studies, " We know more about the ships that navigated the seas two thousand years ago, especially about the Roman ships, than we know about these vessels, which represents a void in Portuguese military history", recalls Augusto Salgado, director of the collection "military History", in his foreword to this interesting study by Filipe Vieira de Castro.
In his book the author organizes and tries to answer scientifically the countless questions that continue to surround these vessels, at the same time so famous and so little known: how the vessels were designed and built, how they sailed, with what speed and at what angels they could sail, why they shipwrecked so often since the end of the sixteenth century.. As the author admits: "It is amazing how little we know about these vessels", notwithstanding the thousands of books written about the Discoveries. About the controversies they generated, F. Vieira de Castro writes in this abridged but complete and rigorous study: "During my generation the India vessels were first seen as extraordinary vessels that allowed heroes and conquerors to reveal new worlds to the world, to become, after the revolution of 1974, known as huge, stinking, overcrowded vessels, carrying violent and greedy invaders who destabilized an exotic, rich and civilized Asia.
(Book review translated by Siaska Andre de la Porte V. Castro)