Gage, Thomas (c. 1602–1656)

views updated

Gage, Thomas (c. 1602–1656)

Thomas Gage (b. c. 1602; d. early 1656), British Dominican friar and author of the strongly anti-Spanish The English-American his travail by sea and land; or a new survey of the West India's, containing a journall of three thousand and three hundred miles within the main Land of America (1648). Gage came from a fiercely devout English Catholic family that suffered persecution by the English government. Educated by the Jesuits in France and Spain, Gage rebelled against Jesuit discipline and joined the Dominican Order at Jerez, Spain, in 1625, causing his ardently pro-Jesuit father to disinherit him. Gage's descriptive English-American begins soon thereafter, with his departure for the Americas as a missionary under the name Tomás de Santa María. Gage described his voyage through the Caribbean to Veracruz and on to Guatemala, where he spent nearly a decade before fleeing the Dominicans when his requests for transfer were denied.

After traversing the rest of Central America, Gage returned to England via Spain at the end of 1637. By then ardently anti-Catholic, he converted to the Anglican Church. The 1648 publication of his inflammatory journal was an instant success and became an important part of the Black Legend (of Spanish misrule in the Indies). Oliver Cromwell ordered the work reprinted in 1655, and many subsequent editions appeared. While it was strongly anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish, this work reflected Gage's keen observations on many aspects of life in Mexico and Central America, including comments on social and economic affairs as well as on crops, natural history, and flora and fauna. As such, it is one of the more important seventeenth-century descriptions of Central America. Oliver Cromwell consulted Gage regarding the 1655 British invasion of the West Indies, and Gage served as a chaplain to the British forces that captured Jamaica in that year. Gage died in Jamaica the following year.

See alsoAnticlericalism; Dominicans.


A. P. Newton, ed., Thomas Gage: The English-American (1946).

J. Eric S. Thompson, [Thomas Gage's] Travels in the New World (1958).

Norman Newton, Thomas Gage in Spanish America (1969).

Frederic Rosengarten, Jr., Thomas Gage: The English-American Traveler (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Pastor, Rodolfo. "De moros en la costa a negros de Castilla: Representación y realidad en las crónicas del siglo XVII centroamericano." Historia Mexicana 44:2 (Oct.-Dec. 1994): 195-235.

                                Sue Dawn McGrady