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Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 1415-1580

Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 1415-1580

Volume: 1
Copyright Date: 1977
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 588
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  • Book Info
    Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 1415-1580
    Book Description:

    This account traces the history of the Portuguese overseas discoveries, following the expansion into the Atlantic island, the Madeiras, and the Azores. It continues the account with the history of Portuguese discoveries along the African coast, at Guinea, the Congo, and Good Hope, then follows the voyages of Vasco da Gama to India and to Cabra, Brazil, and the expansion in the early years of the sixteen century to Malacca, China, and the East Indies. The volume presents not only a useful narrative of the spread of Portuguese empire but also new interpretations and analyses of the Portuguese overseas history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8156-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-xxii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xxiii-xxxi)
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. xxxii-2)
  4. CHAPTER 1 West-East Relations from Ancient Times to the Fourteenth Century A.D.
    (pp. 3-23)

    The Portuguese accomplished in their expansion the fulfillment of a centuries-old dream. The desire to know other lands and people, to travel, conquer, trade, and spread one’s religion is perhaps as old as mankind itself. Earliest recorded history reveals the peoples of the Mediterranean and India reaching toward one another at least as early as 2000 B.C.¹ The stories of Jason and the Argonauts and the siege of Troy in the twelfth century B.C. show Greek expansion. The Phoenicians sailed westward to Carthage in the ninth century B.C., while at the same time their fleets were in the Red Sea....

  5. CHAPTER 2 Prelude to Empire: Portuguese and European Expansion to 1415
    (pp. 24-45)

    The birth of the idea that Europeans could get around Africa to reach the East cannot be traced to any precise date. The first to make the attempt were the Genoese. The difficulties of such a voyage did not necessarily seem insurmountable to the sailors of that time, given their misconception of the shape of Africa and the East as may be seen by looking at the maps available to them. It is not necessary to try to determine whether the men of the thirteenth century knew of the voyages allegedly made around Africa in ancient times. The difficulties the...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Ceuta – the Beginning of Empire
    (pp. 46-56)

    Preparation for the attack on Ceuta was in progress by 1412.¹ When did João I decide on the African invasion, and what were his motives? The first question, though of relatively minor importance, has been hotly debated. Certainly João might have thought of African invasion as early as 1409 or even long before that. His predecessors might have had such thoughts; they would have been natural to kings whose merchants were constantly involved in the Moroccan trade and in unending conflict with the Muslims.

    There is evidence that the king’s own ships, acting as corsairs, had participated in the piracy...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Portuguese Expansion in Africa and the Atlantic, 1415–37
    (pp. 57-73)

    The first decisive step in the occupation of the newly discovered lands was the colonization of the Madeira Islands sometime between 1418 and 1425.¹ None of the islands had previously been inhabited, though some do appear on fourteenth-century maps in the approximately correct position and relative size.² The Castilians allegedly used them as temporary stopovers after the occupation of the Canaries in 1402. According to Azurara’s account, João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, two young men in Henry’s service authorized to sail as corsairs, were blown by storms to Porto Santo, one of the Madeira Islands. After remaining there...

  8. CHAPTER 5 New Discoveries along the African Coast and the Old Spanish Rival
    (pp. 74-95)

    The exploration beyond Bojador so successfully begun between 1434 and 1436 had been interrupted by the disastrous attack on Tangier in 1437. The next year King Duarte died, and “very serious discord” over succession problems occupied Henry’s time. Pedro, the second son of King João I, became regent. Azurara attributes the temporary discontinuance of discoveries to Henry’s involvements in Portugal’s domestic difficulties.¹

    The tendency of some modern historians is to credit Prince Pedro,² or even the collective expansionist forces of Portugal at that time, with the outburst of exploration; but Azurara makes a good case for Henry as the strongest...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Explorations to Guinea and the Cape Verde Islands
    (pp. 96-112)

    While Portugal and Spain were contending for control of the coast of Africa, Portugal was pushing its claims by making new discoveries. The best record of this comes from Alvise da Cadamosto (1432–88), a young Venetian nobleman and merchant who arrived in Portugal in 1454 and became a participant in the discoveries. Cadamosto had trading experience in the Mediterranean and had made one trip to Flanders before arriving in Portugal.¹

    He embarked from Venice for England in the Flanders galleys August 8. Contrary winds forced them to stop over at Cape St. Vincent where, he says, “by chance I...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Henry “The Navigator” Who Followed His Stars
    (pp. 113-122)

    So great were the accomplishments of Portugal between 1415 and 1460 that some historians have sought to reconstruct the period in a rational way and ascribe it all to a plan. So great was the contribution of Henry that many have given to him sole credit for Portuguese expansion and called him “The Navigator.” He has become an untouchable, almost a sainted figure not to be criticized. Yet the facts seem to be that Portugal’s expansion was no more the result of a “plan” than was the national expansion of other nations and that Henry was the most important but...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Navigation: Portuguese Haven-Finding in the Ocean Sea
    (pp. 123-143)

    It is evident that from the time (ca. 1420) Portugal began colonization of the Madeira Islands, some 400 miles in the ocean west of Africa, and the Azores, (ca. 1427) 745 to 1000 miles west of Portugal, the problem of sailing in the open Atlantic had been at least partly solved.¹ Coastal navigation from city to city in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic offered no further major obstacles at the beginning of the fifteenth century. The Mediterranean was a long, narrow, enclosed sea in which sooner or later a familiar landmark would come into view. Sailing the coasts of Europe...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Dividing the Land and the Waters: The Treaty of Alcáçovas, 1479–80
    (pp. 144-153)

    On the death of Henry in November 1460, the rights he had held reverted to the crown. No one was a successor to Henry in the legendary sense of a man devoted to exploration. On August 22, 1460, Prince Fernando, his nephew and adopted son, had received Terceira and Graciosa in the Azores. Shortly after Henry’s death the three archipelagos of the Azores, Madeiras, and Cape Verdes were granted to Fernando by the king on December 3, with “income, taxes, and jurisdiction … exactly as Prince Henry held them from us.”¹ The Western Cape Verde Islands also went to Fernando...

  13. CHAPTER 10 João II: The “Perfect Prince” Who Looked South and East
    (pp. 154-165)

    João lost no time in securing physically the land to which the Treaty of Alcáçovas gave him a free hand. A fleet of ten caravels and twourcascommanded by Diogo de Azambuja left Lisbon for Guinea December 12, 1481, with 500 soldiers and 100 skilled workmen.¹ Arriving at the chosen place on the Gold Coast, he established afeitoriaand began building a fortress which was named São Jorge da Mina, near what is today Cape Coast a little more than 1°W. Among those who participated in this voyage was Christopher Columbus, who had arrived in Portugal in 1476....

  14. CHAPTER 11 Christopher Columbus: A Genoese Who Made a “Portuguese” Voyage for Spain
    (pp. 166-174)

    In the interval between the voyages of Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama, Portugal and the world were struck by the news that, as Rui de Pina wrote, “Columbus came from the discovery of the islands of Cipango [Japan] and the Antiles, where he went by order of the kings of Castile, from which land he brought the first examples of the people, and gold, and some other things.”¹ What Columbus himself thought he had discovered is indicated by the papal bull of May 3, 1493, in which Castile was granted “in the ocean sea, in western waters, as is...

  15. CHAPTER 12 Vasco da Gama: “May the Devil Take You! What Brought You Here?”
    (pp. 175-186)

    The return of Bartolomeu Dias from the discovery of the Cape route to the Indian Ocean and the reception of the report of Pero de Covilhã, if that report indeed reached the king’s hands, should have signalized, it seems, vigorous action in following up these two encouraging leads. Instead, more than eight years elapsed before the next known expedition, Vasco da Gama’s, which reached India. Why the long delay, especially when in 1485 João II had informed the pope, and thus all Europe, that he was at the doors of India?

    Various explanations have been offered.¹ The king was preoccupied...

  16. CHAPTER 13 Cabral: The Captain Who Touched Four Continents
    (pp. 187-194)

    The first news of Vasco da Gama’s success was the signal for the immediate organization of a second expedition. This time there was no delay and no hesitation. The difficulties that Vasco da Gama had encountered in the East called for a fleet strong enough to show off Portugal’s power, to establish commerce with the East, and to open diplomatic relations with the Samorin and other rulers. On February 15, 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral was appointed to command this fleet. He was described as a “nobleman (homen fidalgo) of good education and competent for the task.”¹ No records indicate that...

  17. MAPS
    (pp. None)
    (pp. None)
  19. CHAPTER 14 Preconditions to an Asian Empire
    (pp. 195-219)

    It has usually escaped notice outside Portugal that the fifteen-year burst of national activity that followed the return of Vasco da Gama was one of the most purposeful and decisive in the history of the Western world. No one, except the Portuguese, ever dreamed that less than a generation after da Gama’s weather-beaten ships turned up in the roads of Calicut, his small but determined nation on the western rim of Europe could establish itself firmly as master of the Indian Ocean, twelve thousand sea miles from home. This feat, together with the equally decisive Spanish exploits of Cortés and...

  20. CHAPTER 15 From Discovery to Conquest
    (pp. 220-242)

    In the ten-year span between the arrival of Cabral at Calicut in 1500 and the beginning of Afonso de Albuquerque’s governorship, the Portuguese discoverers mastered the Indian Ocean. This evolution from visitor to conquistador was startlingly rapid, but it was pragmatic rather than premeditated. The indications are that at first Cabral and the king were only interested in filling ships with spices and sailing home to make the greatest possible profit. Moreover, until Cabral’s return, King Manuel still nourished a hope that the Samorin might turn out to be some sort of Christian who had merely fallen out of touch...

  21. CHAPTER 16 The Shape of Empire: The Nucleus, 1509–15
    (pp. 243-271)

    Portugal was now too firmly settled in India to be dislodged by any but the unanimous — and therefore unlikely — efforts of its native rulers. At sea the “Franks,” as the Muslims called western Europeans, were practically unbeatable. Their naval power not only enabled them to triumph over maritime opposition; it cast their shadow over the beaches and harbors of India as well. By then, too, the Portuguese had come to understand that no rival Indian state could prosper against their will if its prosperity depended upon water transportation. Moreover, they realized that no matter how much power any...

  22. CHAPTER 17 The Shape of Empire, Continued: The Nucleus, 1515–80
    (pp. 272-300)

    Over the next sixty-five years, or until the temporary end of Portuguese independence under Philip II in 1580, Albuquerque’s successors added territory and fortresses here and there. But most of the additions were the result of actions initiated by the great governor (for example, Diu), or they lay well inside the lines of Portuguese force which Albuquerque had established (for example, Ceylon, along the main line of the communication among Goa, Cochin, and Malacca). Even Portuguese stations in the Malay archipelago were results of his reconnaissance expeditions, like the one of 1511 dispatched from Malacca. (On the other hand, the...

  23. CHAPTER 18 Institutions of Trade and Government
    (pp. 301-337)

    The Portuguese colonial institutions that were created in the century between the conquest of Ceuta and the death of Albuquerque — or a little after — were designed to serve entirely dissimilar circumstances and fall into two distinct patterns. The first of these patterns was royal, authoritarian, and commercial; the second emphasized private capital, delegated authority, and agriculture. In the first, the crown itself became a giant mercantile corporation, as along the African coast and in Asia. In the second, it became a colonial franchiser which entrusted the management of its assets to others and allowed them the greatest share...

  24. CHAPTER 19 The Shape of Empire: The Western Periphery
    (pp. 338-359)

    The Indian empire of Almeida and Albuquerque has already been described, and it formed the nucleus ofÁsia Portuguesa. But its governors and viceroys ruled in a much vaster area than this, one that sprawled from the Cape of Good Hope eastward to the China Seas and terminated at a point where the Tordesillas line was thought to fall as it circled the other side of the globe.

    To either side of this central system of fortresses — Ormuz-Diu-Goa, Cochin, Ceylon, and Malacca — there lay two peripheral regions of Portuguese activity, one in South-East Africa and one in the...

  25. CHAPTER 20 The Periphery: Indonesia
    (pp. 360-379)

    The Malay Archipelago came closest to resembling the world’s treasury of spices and spicy woods. It produced, among others, nutmeg, mace, pepper, cloves, and sandalwood. If the Portuguese had possessed a hundred years of hindsight in 1500, they could have done no better than to bypass India and settle in Malaysia, as the Dutch did a century after da Gama’s discovery.

    The Portuguese were exceedingly interested in the area, and they demonstrated this interest as soon as Albuquerque had conquered Malacca. But their ability to exploit it was limited by the heavy commitments they had already made to the garrisons...

  26. CHAPTER 21 The Periphery: China and Japan
    (pp. 380-405)

    Each time the Portuguese turned a corner of the great Eurasian land mass, they seem to have changed their style completely. In the Atlantic they were explorers, in the Indian Ocean they were conquerors, and in the Far East they were businessmen.

    Another less epigrammatic way of expressing the reality would be to say that the little country first aimed at India in its outreach from Europe and that once it achieved Calicut, it committed all its resources to southwestern India. Then, with the characteristic restlessness of the age, even before settling down, it began the whole process over again...

  27. CHAPTER 22 The Balance Sheet
    (pp. 406-436)

    The establishment of the Portuguese empire in Asia was anything but carefully contrived — it was the product of a strong national will and no more than a dash of planning. In fact, there was hardly any information available with which to plan in the beginning, and if the scout Pero de Covilhã’s reports to King João II ever really did reach Lisbon, they seem to have been of little use to anybody.

    For eighty years after Vasco da Gama’s return to Europe in 1499, the Portuguese had sought the “alchemy” — the magic formula — which would make their...

  28. Appendixes
    (pp. 439-476)
    (pp. 477-516)
  30. INDEX
    (pp. 517-533)