By Frank McLynn
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Extra info for 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World
By far the worst of them was Sebastião José de Carvalho e Mello, Marquis of Pombal, who had been appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1750 and by 1759 was Charles III of Spain’s first minister. Pombal hated the Jesuits, as they opposed his South American projects. Moreover, like Henry VIII vis-à-vis the monasteries, Pombal calculated that if he could suppress the Society of Jesus in Portuguese domains, a huge economic windfall would accrue. But until 1750 the reductions of Paraguay, in Spanish territory, were beyond his reach.
What impresses the chronicler of the eighteenth century, rather than the student of religion, is the extreme hazard of a North Atlantic crossing. Historians talk blithely of entire armies crossing the ocean from Europe to America as if a mere train journey was at issue, but seldom is there any appreciation of what a truly terrifying and diabolical experience it was. In the age of sail the intrepid mariners had few defences against hurricanes, typhoons and high seas, and we now know that the usual track for America-bound vessels from northern Europe, passing the Newfoundland Banks is especially perilous.
At his death Aurangzeb left no fewer than seventeen legitimate claimants to his throne – sons, grandsons, great-grandsons – and the result was a predictable chaos. For a time the Sayyid brothers, Husain Ali, Governor of Patna, and Abdullah, Governor of Allahabad, were the kingmakers, but one of their protégés, Muhammad Shah (who ruled from 1719 to 1748) turned the tables on the brothers, encouraging a revolt in the Deccan and engineering their downfall. By this time Aurangzeb’s mighty empire was disintegrating rapidly.