Taiwan in the seventeenth century was a pivotal site of conflict between the expansionist Dutch and Spanish colonial empires. This book examines the economic and religious motives which brought the Spaniards to Taiwan from Manila in the first half of the century. Since 1624, Dutch expansion had been threatening the thriving trade between Fujian and Manila. Meanwhile, religious authorities were eager to find a staging post to enable missionaries to enter Japan in those years of strong persecution and to create an alternative entry point into China. Jose Eugenio Borao's meticulous and multilingual research constructs a new historical realm centered on the Spaniards, who at times faced opposition from the Japanese or the Dutch, while trying to forge relations with China and particularly with the natives of northern Taiwan. During this period Taiwan natives were experiencing many changes because of growing exposure to foreign sailors and increasing immigration from China. On this small island, we can also observe the transition from the fading Renaissance ideology that still motivated the Spanish endeavor to a more Baroque pessimism towards the end of their adventure.
The author suggests that this transition affected also the natives, who most probably began to see their own existence in a new light.
Jose Eugenio Borao Mateo is professor of Spanish language and culture in the Department of Foreign Languages at National Taiwan University.