Dr. Zoltán Biedermann

Dr. Zoltán Biedermann
Senior Lecturer, Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies


Zoltán Biedermann (PhD, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris / Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 2006) is a historian of European expansion in Asia with a focus on the Portuguese and Dutch in Sri Lanka and South India between 1500 and 1750. He is interested in knowledge exchange, transcontinental diplomacy and empire building, imperial literature, cartography, urbanism, and more generally the politics of space at the intersection between Western colonists and South Asian societies.

He has held appointments at Birkbeck College, Brown University and the EHESS in Paris, is attached to the Portuguese Centre for Global History (CHAM) and the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies (CILAVS), is a member of the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies (AISLS) and the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka (RASSL), and has been recently elected a corresponding member of the Academy of the Portuguese Marine.

Key Publications


Mutual Conquests: Sri Lanka and the Origins of Western Imperialism in Asia (completed, currently with press).

The Portuguese in Sri Lanka and South India: Studies in the History of Diplomacy, Empire and Trade, 1500-1650, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2014, x + 205p.

Edited Volumes

Global Gifts. Art and Diplomacy between Europe and Asia, 1500-1800, volume edited with Giorgio Riello and Anne Gerritsen (completed, currently with press).

Cosmopolitan Island. Sri Lanka at the Crossroads of History, volume edited with Alan Strathern (under completion, proposal currently with press).

Co-editor of the Maritime Asia series, Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden (12 volumes published since 2006). Link: http://www.sinologie.uni-muenchen.de/forschung/publikationen/maritimeasia/index.html

Journal articles

‘The Matrioshka Principle and How it was Overcome: Portuguese and Habsburg Attitudes toward Imperial Authority in Sri Lanka and the Responses of the Rulers of Kotte (1506-1656)’, Journal of Early Modern History, 13, 4 (2009), pp. 265-310

‘Colombo versus Cannanore: Contrasting Structures of Two Early Colonial Port Cities in South Asia’, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 53, 2 (2009), pp. 413-459

‘Portuguese Diplomacy in Asia in the Sixteenth Century: a Preliminary Overview’, in Itinerario, 29, 2 (Summer 2005), pp. 13-37

Book chapters

‘La conquista de Ceilán, un proyecto ibérico de expansión en Asia’, in Carlos Martínez Shaw & José Antonio Martínez Torres, eds., España y Portugal en el Mundo (1580-1668), Madrid: Ed. Polifemo, 2014, pp. 315-339

‘Imagining Asia from the Margins: Early Portuguese Mappings of the Continent’s Architecture and Space’, in V. Rujivacharakul, H. H. Hahn, K. T. Oshima, P. Christensen (eds.), Architecturalized Asia. Mapping the Continent through Architecture and Geography, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013, pp. 35-51

‘Ruptura imperial ou realização de um velho plano português? O conturbado início da conquista de Ceilão em 1594’, in Santiago Hernández Martínez (ed.), Governo, administração e representação do poder no Portugal e seus territórios ultramarinos no período dos Áustrias (1580-1640), Lisbon: Tinta da China / Centro de História de Além-Mar, 2011, pp. 147-176

‘Um outro Vieira? Pedro de Basto, Fernão de Queiroz e a profecia jesuítica na Índia portuguesa’, in Gaetano Sabatini & Pedro Cardim, eds., António Vieira, Roma e o Universalismo das Monarquias Portuguese e Espanhola, Lisbon: Centro de História de Além-Mar, 2011, pp. 145-173

‘The “Malwana Convention” revisited. Notes on the Lankan transition to Iberian rule’, in Gaston Perera (ed.), Christians and Spices: The Portuguese in Sri Lanka and Goa, Colombo: International Centre for Ethnic Studies, 2010, pp. 29-48

‘Representations of the Sri Lankan Space in Portuguese Texts and Maps of the Sixteenth Century’, in Jorge Flores (ed.), Re-exploring the links: History and Constructed Histories between Portugal and Sri Lanka (Maritime Asia 18), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007, p. 235-260

‘Notes on a Portuguese Map of Ceylon: Fernão Vaz Dourado, 1568 / Notas sobre um mapa português de Ceilão: Fernão Vaz Dourado, 1568’, in Oriente, 18 (2007), pp. 97-105

Other titles

‘The “Portuguese Period” Revisited: New Perspectives on Sri Lanka in the Sixteenth Century’, Pamphlet published in the Lectures/Discussions Series of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, 2012

Long review of Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya, ‘The Portuguese in the East. A Cultural History of a Maritime Trading Empire’, London / New York: I. B. Tauris, 2008, in e-Journal of Portuguese History, 9, 1 (2011), online at:


Review of ‘Portuguese Encounters with Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Translated Texts from the Age of the Discoveries’, edited by Chandra R. de Silva [Farnham/Burlington, VT, Ashgate Publishing, 2009], in e-Journal of Portuguese History, 8, 1 (2010), online at: http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Portuguese_Brazilian_Studies/ejph/

‘The Portuguese Missionary in 16th and 17th Century Ceylon: The Spiritual Conquest’, by C. Gaston Perera [Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2009], in e-Journal of Portuguese History, 8, 1 (2010), online at:


Projects and Collaborations 

2015–17: Imperios de papel: textos, cultura escrita y religiosos en la configuración del Imperio portugués en la Edad Moderna (1580-1668), coord. Federico Palomo, Secretaría de Estado de Investigación, desarrollo  e innovación. Universidad Complutense, Madrid.

2012: Mutual Conquests. Ceylon and the Making of Western Imperialism in Asia, 1500-1600, AHRC fellowship: http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk/project/CBDD190D-2B0C-4560-8A96-44C8664EBD09

2010–13: O Governo dos Outros: Imaginários políticos no império português 1496-1961, coord. Ângela Barreto Xavier. Project funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (PTDC/HIS-HIS/104640/2008), based at the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon.


Teaching interests

None at present, but would be open to teaching or co-teaching a course on “Encounters in South Asia before 1800”

Areas of PhD research supervision

Portuguese Imperial History, Early Modern India and Sri Lanka