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Between Givers and the Poor: Managing Charity in the Portuguese Empire


  • Pinto Sara

    () (ITCEM - Transdisciplinary Research Centre «Culture, Space and Memory», University of Porto, ‎Porto, Portugal)


In the 16th century the Portuguese monarchy established its key charity institution: the Misericórdias. Created to perform the fourteen Works of Mercy, these laic brotherhoods were financially sustained by testamentary legacies and proved to be a very successful mechanism of providing assistance – spiritual and material; becoming the midway between the wills of givers (privileged men and women that looked for spiritual redemption and forgiveness of their souls) and the poor and sick. As the Misericórdias started to spread within the Empire, soon they became a well-functioning network that connected a truly global charity system. They played a role in empire formation as they started to perform as banks, transferring funds, assuming debts and conceding credit. This article analyzes the roles that Misericórdias played, not only in establishing charity but also in establishing the Portuguese’s global empire.

Suggested Citation

  • Pinto Sara, 2018. "Between Givers and the Poor: Managing Charity in the Portuguese Empire," New Global Studies, De Gruyter, vol. 12(2), pages 175-194, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:nglost:v:12:y:2018:i:2:p:175-194:n:11

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    Misericórdias; Portuguese Empire; bequests; credit;


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