Atlantic World: All About Portugal
By Cam Macones and Tariq Said
The Beginning of Portugal
Portugal was founded in 1139, but the Atlantic World for Portugal started in 1400-1650. Portuguese religious missionaries left Portugal for foreign converts and refugees seeking religious freedom. Although relations between the Portuguese State and the Catholic Church were generally amiable and stable, their relative power fluctuated. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the church enjoyed both riches and power stemming from its role in the reconquest and its close identification with early Portuguese nationalism. For a time, the Church's position the State diminished until the growth of the Portuguese Sea Empire made its missionaries important agents of colonization. In 1497, reflecting events that had five years earlier in Spain, Portugal expelled the Jews and the few remaining Moors or forced them to convert. In 1536, the Pope gave King John III permission to establish the Portuguese Inquisition to enforce the purity of the faith.
There were several reasons for Portugal to explore the unknown waters to its south and west. As a Catholic kingdom, Portuguese monarchs saw it as their duty to spread Christianity and destroy Islam in the process.
Religion of Portugal
The legend of the long-lost Christian kingdom of Preaster John located somewhere in the Orient provided hope that, if it could only be reached, Islam could be encircled
by Christian forces. Portuguese religious missionaries left Portugal for foreign converts and refugees seeking religious freedom though relations between the Portuguese State and the Catholic Church were generally amiable and stam. Their relative power fluctuated. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the church enjoyed both riches and power stemming from its role in the reconquest and its close identification with early Portuguese nationalism. For a time, the Church's position the State diminished until the growth of the Portuguese Sea Empire made its missionaries important agents of colonization. In 1497, reflecting events that had five years earlier in Spain, Portugal expelled the Jews and the few remaining Moors or forced them to convert. In 1536, the Pope gave King John III permission to establish the Portuguese Inquisition to enforce faith.
At the same time, reaching the Orient would allow Portugal to tap into the source of the lucrative spice trade, passing the route that the Venetians had a stranglehold at its entry point to Europe. In 1419, two of Prince Henry the Navigator's captains were driven by a storm to Madera. In 1427, another Portuguese captain discovered the Azores. In an expedition to Tangier, undertaken in 1436, by King Edward of Portugal, the Portuguese army was defeated and only escaped destruction by surrendering Prince Ferdinand, the king's youngest brother. By sea, Prince Henry's captains continued their exploration of Africa and the Atlantic Ocean.
Exploring East of Portugal
A lot of people who were uneducated believed in sea monsters, searing fireballs, and boiling seas etc. Prince Henry ordered Captain Gil Eanes, to round Cape Bajador. After a decade had passed, Prince Henry's ships began to bring gold dust and slaves back from the African coast. Portuguese mariners started the race for the sea empire. This small country faced the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Mediterranean Sea, so they had to get over a huge disadvantage. Many astute and ambitious rulers saw that the only way to build up wealth, was to bypass merchants who controlled the markets and go by sea. Pushed by Prince Henry aka Prince Henry the Navigator, the Portuguese started building trading stations down the west coast of Africa aka Gold coast. When Prince Henry died in 1460, exploration started to slow down, the pace picked up in 1481 when King John II launched a new effort. He realized that if they sailed around Africa they would have direct trade with India and China.
In 1498 Vasco de Gama reaches Calicut in India for trade. In the next two decades, Portuguese captains made more progress going down the northwestern coast of Africa past into the Gulf of Guinea. At this time, the Portuguese were enjoying their huge advantage over other European nations in both ship and navigation. They determined latitude by sighting the North Star through an Astrolabe and measuring the distance between the star from the horizon. Eventually they could explore waters that were south of the equator. These improvements led to refinements in the field of cartography. Portuguese maps of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were the best in Europe and Libson spies often tried to buy or steal them. So the Portuguese safeguarded their map.
More Exploration
During the fifteenth century, Portugal gained a long lead over Spain, staking claims along the entire coast of West Africa. But in 1492 the Spanish monarchs conquered Granada, the last Moorish state in the peninsula, and completed the unification of their country. The man most responsible for the brilliant Portuguese exploits was Prince Henry, known as "the Navigator" for his famous observatory at Sagres, where skilled mariners planned voyages and recorded their results. Asa young man in 1411, Henry directed the Portuguese conquest of Ceuta, a Muslim port on the Moroccan coast, near the Mediterranean's western entrance. This experience imbued him with a life-long desire to divert the West African gold trade from Muslim caravans to Portuguese ships. He also shared the common dream of finding in Ethiopia Christian allies against the Turks on the other side of Africa. Such ideas motivated Henry for forty years as he sent expeditions down the West African coast, steadily charting and learning from unknown waters.Before other European states began extended explorations, the Portuguese had navigated the West African coast to its southern tip. Henry's captains claimed the Madeira Islands in 1418 and the Azores in 1421. They had explored the Senegal River by 1450 and then traced the Guinea coast during the next decade. After Henry's death in 1460, they pushed south, reaching Benin in the decade after 1470 and Kongo, on the southwest coast, in 1482. Six years later, Bartholomew Dias rounded the southern tip of Africa, but his disgruntled crew forced him to turn back. Nevertheless, King John II of Portugal was so excited by the prospect of a direct route to India that he named Diaz's discovery "the Cape of Good Hope."





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Prince Henry the Navigator




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