Sails and Acquisitions

Jose Manuel Ribeiro / Reuters

Faces of Diversity
The Asian mask collection at Lisbon's new Museu do Oriente

Centuries before globalization became a buzzword, it took on a Portuguese accent. The reason was trade. By pioneering an eastbound passage around the Cape of Good Hope in the 15th century, Portugal dominated the spice routes and became a great mercantile power, establishing a presence in Africa, India, Sri Lanka and East Asia, where it had bases in Japan, China and Indonesia.

Portuguese superiority was not to last, however. Other European powers — especially the Dutch — began to encroach on Portugal's trading posts in the 17th century, and by the century's end, Portuguese...

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