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Press Release - 23 October 2007

Public lecture: Thomas Stephens, the forgotten Wiltshireman and his mission to the East

The remarkable life of Thomas Stephens, a Jesuit born in 16th century Wiltshire, will be discussed at a free public lecture at the University of Bath in Swindon, on Wednesday 24 October (5.30pm to 6.30pm).

Thomas Stephens was the first Englishman to sail around the Cape of Good Hope – aboard a Portuguese carrack. He printed the first book in an Asian language and wrote the Christian Purhana, a classic of Indian literature.

He is a revered figure in India and is buried next to St Francis Xavier in Goa, where the Konkani Language Institute bears his name.

Nicholas Fogg, a Fellow of Queen’s University in Ontario and a former consultant to the Harvard University School of Government, will describe Stephens’ world, including Reformation in England, Counter-Reformation Rome; the Portuguese Empire in the East; the cultures of India, China and Japan; and the Imperial Courts of the Mughul Empire and China.

“The outstanding achievements of Jesuits in the late 16th century are often overlooked,” said Mr Fogg. “They devised the Gregorian Calendar, brought Western science to China, opened up trade with Japan, introduced western art to the Court of the Emperor Akbar the Great and mapped the Himalayas.”

Admission and parking for the lecture is free and people can just turn up on the evening. The lecture runs from 5.30pm until 6.30pm in the University hall at the Oakfield campus.

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