Dr. Antonio de Morga (1559-1636) was an energetic, gifted and versatile bureaucrat who served under three kings in the audiencias of the Philippines, Mexico, and Quito. Pious and sensual, petty and gifted with vision, his career represents some of the strengths and weaknesses of that incipient professional bureaucracy that bore the main responsibility for governing the empire. His career ended in disgrace in 1636 during a turbulent visita general. Dr. Morga as President of the royal audiencia of Quito was convicted of a whole series of infractions ranging from his weaknesses for the ladies to illegal mercantile interests to smuggling Chinese silks disguised as his personal library. Whatever may have been his personal shortcomings, Dr. Morga was a vigorous and able administrator.
Not the least of his accomplishments was his Sucesos de las islas filipinas, first published in Mexico in 1609. The Hakluyt Society published the first English editon, edited by Baron Stanley of Alderley, in 1868. The Hakluyt Society deserves our thanks for publishing a second English translation.
James S. Cummins, the editor of a previous Hakluyt volume on The Travels and Controversies of Friar Domingo Navarrete, was a happy choice as the editor of the new Morga edition. Dr. Cummins has provided us with an accurate, graceful and entirely new translation of the Spanish text with a host of appropriate footnotes. If only for this reason the new edition should be in the library of all scholars of Iberian expansion overseas. Furthermore, the new translation could be used to advantage as supplementary reading in a colonial history course for undergraduates.
What lends special usefulness to this edition, however, is Dr. Cummins’ lucid, concise and wide-ranging introductory essay outlining Dr. Morga’s empire-wide career. Demonstrating an easy mastery of all the secondary sources, the editor adds some new primary information from his own research in the archives of Manila and Seville.
Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las islas filipinas is a classic account of the first decades of Spanish expansion into the Philippines—the only such account written by a Spanish layman until the nineteenth century. Dr. Cummins deserves much credit for a model job of scholarly editing and interpretation.