Globalisation is all the rage these days, and with it the retelling of a particular kind of biographical life. Linda Colley’s The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History and Natalie Zemon Davis’s Trickster Travels: In Search of Leo Africanus, a Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds are just two of the most recent and distinguished examples of a new genre of global biography, where an individual life is used to tell a story of global migration and economic exchange (as in the case of Marsh) or of the cross-cultural movement between faiths (exemplified by Leo Africanus). Implicit in such studies is an urgent need to understand the present through the past, uncovering changes as well as continuities with our current moment of globalisation. The early modern period (c 1500–1700) is a particularly fertile area for researching such global lives because it is relatively unconstrained by national borders, offering instead a pre-modern cosmopolitanism that is all the more appealing because of its connections with our current, much-celebrated transnationalism.
Into this emerging field steps Liam Matthew Brockey, an ambitious young American historian, with his study of the Jesuit Father André Palmeiro (1569–1635). In 1617 Palmeiro was appointed ‘Father Visitor’ (hence the book’s title), with responsibility for inspecting the Society of Jesus’s network of missions across what Brockey calls ‘Maritime