|Interlopers at the Fringes of Empire: The Procurators of the Propaganda Fide Papal
Congregation in Canton and Macao, 1700–1823 /
Eugenio Menegon, Boston University.|
Extract from: Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review (E-Journal No. 25 (December 2017).
Includes bibliographical references (p.-62.)
The office of the procurator of the papal Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith
(Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide) offers a unique case study of noncommercial
interloping in the long eighteenth century in the Pearl River Delta, and reveals the complexity
and fluidity of life at the intersection of Asian and European maritime environments in that
special human ecosystem. The oceanic infrastructure of the Age of Sail and the Sino-Western
trade system in Canton sustained the Catholic missionary enterprise in Asia, and the professional
figure of the procurator represented its economic and political linchpin. Procurators were agents
connected with both European and Qing imperial formations, yet not directly at their service.
They utilized existing maritime trade networks to their own advantage without being integral
parts of those networks’ economic mechanisms. All the while, they subverted Qing prohibitions
against Christianity. Using sources preserved in Rome, this article offers new insights into the
global mechanisms of trade, communication, and religious exchange embodied by the
procurators-interlopers and their networks, with significant implications for the history of the
Sino-Western trade system, Qing policies toward the West and Christianity, and the history of
Asian Catholic missions.
Keywords: Guangzhou, Macao, Canton System, Propaganda Fide, papacy, Jesuits, Portugal,
Kangxi Emperor, Clement XI, Yongzheng Emperor, Qianlong Emperor, Qing dynasty