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This article seeks to understand how early modern Franciscan authors understood the history of their activities in East Asia.The best way to comprehend how they framed their historical writings is through the prism of honor, that is, the corporate honor of the Order of Friars Minor.Speaking of his history of the Observant Franciscan Província de São Tomé, he wrote, its intention was “to show to the world the falsity of the abovementioned author who, with so little reason, sought to inveigh against this Holy Province on matters for which it deserves great praise.” To be sure, Trindade retreated from invective as he concluded his preface, hoping that “divine goodness would favor our intentions, which are none other than the glory of His Holy Name, honor for our sacred Franciscan order, and credit and reputation for this Holy Province of São Tomé” (Trindade, 1962-1967, I: 6).This formulation gets to the heart of the historical enterprise as it was conceived by early modern chroniclers from religious orders.But as corporations, that is, as groups with specific group identities expressed in written rules or “ways of proceeding” (to use the Jesuits’ oft-repeated formulation), they were acutely aware of their social prestige.In the secular realm, honor was the gentleman’s garb; among religious, it was the order’s habit.
To be sure, among religious writers it was by no means only the Friars Minor who were concerned for honor: They were no different than their peers among the Jesuits, Dominicans, or Augustinians, to name orders whose members also produced chronicles of Asian endeavors. Those Franciscans who read the chronicles in manuscript as internal histories of their order?
La publicación de las historia franciscana en Europa permitió que los conflictos entre órdenes se extendiesen a todo el globo, aunque su intención original era la de preservar la memoria de los esfuerzos realizados para implantar y hacer crecer la Iglesia en espacios distantes. Frei Paulo da Trindade opened his monumental history of the Franciscans in Asia with an unusually candid acknowledgment.