History of Northern Africa Madeira, 1660-1815

Madeira until 1660

Mentioned on an Italian map of 1351, the Madeira Islands were uninhabited when accidentally found by the Portuguese in 1418. HENRY THE NAVIGATOR initiated Portuguese settlement in 1420. The islands' dense forest was burnt down and turned into farmland; by 1433 the deforestation had been completed. In 1497 the island's population had reached 5,000. Madeira was formally annexed into the Kingdom of Portugal, Funchal was declared the islands' capital (elevated to the rank of a city in 1508). In 1516 Funchal was declared seat of a bishop.
Wine and sugarcane (1425) were introduced, Madeira being where the world's first sugarcane plantation was established. The importation of African slaves began in 1452. The sugar industry made the islands prosperous, a prosperity which lasted until the Portuguese introduced sugarcane plantations to SAO TOME and then to BRAZIL - in both cases utilizing Madeiran experience and manpower (emigration). Then, outshadowed by Brazilian sugar exports, the Madeiran economy declined.
Between 1580 and 1640, Portugal was just another one of the Spanish Habsburg's many possessions. Madeira suffered from the regidity of regulations which were imposed by the state over the economic affairs of it's colonies. In 1640, Madeira had c.30,000 inhabitants.

History of Madeira, from madeiraweb and from SDM
History of Madeira, from Landenweb, in Dutch

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 22nd 2001, last revised on November 6th 2004

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