Feature stories

HISTORIC MACAU – C.A. (Carlos Augusto) Montalto de Jesus 1863 – 1932

05/02/2020

Historic Macao was a pioneering work by local Macanese author C.A. Montalto de Jesus when it was first published in 1902. As one of the first books published on Macau’s long history in English, it was well received as the authoritative text on the then 345 year old Portuguese colony. He went on to publish Historic Shanghai in 1909 that likewise received widespread recognition for its history of the foreign settlement. These books brought C.A. Montalto de Jesus global recognition as an author of high standing in the Far East. 

He published a Second Edition of Historic Macao in 1926 and immediately drew the ire of the Portuguese colonial government of Macau. Montalto de Jesus had been respectful of the Portuguese history in the First Edition, eulogising the heroic feats Colonel Vicente Mesquita and his small band of soldiers in the defence of Macau in 1849, upholding Portugal’s right to sovereignty in Macau since its establishment in 1557 and championing the precarious situation of Macau in the aftermath of the British annexation of Hong Kong in 1842. 

In his Second Edition he crossed the line with the Portuguese colonial authorities by suggesting the people of Macau would be better served under the stewardship of the League of Nations that had been formed in 1920 after World War I. This proposition was considered an act of sedition and resulted in a great loss of face for Portuguese officials who did not take Montalto’s allegations of maladministration well.  Historic Macao was withdrawn from sale and the colonial authorities seized all sold copies from resident’s homes.  Montalto was fined $400 plus costs or four months in jail for breach of press laws.  

Nearly 3 years later he requested to have the copies returned to him and in response on 11 March 1929 the Macau authorities staged a public burning of all 500 copies in their possession. Montalto de Jesus fled Macau to Hong Kong then Shanghai penniless.  He wrote that he ‘found it necessary to intern myself at the Asylum of the Little  Sisters in Kowloon and was  sheltered by charity among Chinese old men… Some who knew me were shocked find the historian of Macao herded with poor decrepit coolies.’ The Jornal de Macau reported on 28 November 1929 that Montalto, ‘esse inimigo dos Portugueses’– ‘this enemy of the Portuguese people’ – was in Shanghai.  

C.A Montalto de Jesus was born in Hong Kong in 1863 and died in Shanghai on 19 May 1932 a broken man. 

This original and rare historic manuscript with notations of the author’s work on a 3rd Edition of Historic Macao, has been generously donated to Club Lusitano by Mr Armando Luz and is located in the 23Fl., Biblioteca Lusitano. 

References , A Book Burning in Macau, Stuart Braga,  Casa de Macau Inc Australia, November 2010