1139-1385 Independence Regained, 1640

Portugal, 1385-1580

The BATTLE OF ALJUBARROTA decided the fate of Portugal. The country retained it's independence, and the HOUSE OF AVIS established itself as Portugal's dynasty. With only 8 kings ruling a total 195 years, Portugal was fortunate to enjoy political stability under this dynasty. King Alfonso V. had taken up the Reconquista again, establishing a Portuguese foothold in Africa with the conquest of CEUTA in 1415; the region around it was called ALGARVE ACROSS THE SEA; Alfonso earned the byname THE AFRICAN.
Portugal's location on Europe's periphery, with a long stretch of Atlantic coast and numerous harbours, was fortunate. Prince HENRY THE NAVIGATOR realized this and, having heard from a fabulously rich country to the south of the Sahara, where the MOORS obtained gold in exchange for salt, he pushed Portugal's captains to explore Africa's coast. They succeeded in reaching the GOLD COAST, where trading forts such as ELMINA were established, tapping the gold market and draining the Moors' gold supply. Step by step, Portuguese navigators explored Africa's coast, the object now being to find a route to India. In 1488, BARTOLOMEO DIAZ found the Cape of Good Hope. In 1498, VASCO DA GAMA reached India.
Columbus' discovery of America in 1492 had made the Portuguese nervous, for discovery and political claim to the lands and riches discovered were synonymous. In 1494, Spain and Portugal signed the TREATY OF TORDESILLAS, partitioning the world outside christian Europe amongst themselves. In 1500, CABRAL by accident discovered Brazil, which happened to be located within the Portuguese sector.
AFONSO DE ALBUQUERQUE established Portuguese rule over key market towns such as GOA, BOMBAY, MALACCA. The Portuguese controlled the trade on the Indian Ocean and soon also the East Asian sea trade. Lisbon soon overtook Venice as Europe's leading market for spices and other Asian import products, as Lisbon offered considerably lower prices.
The Portuguese were not content with merely controlling the trade in such highly priced commodities, but began to take production of some under their control, by conquering the MOLUCCAS (spice islands) and by establishing SUGAR PLANTATIONS, first on MADEIRA, then in Brazil.
In 1496, King Dom Manuel expelled the country's Jews and Muslims. Jewish children under 14 were to be baptised and raised as christians. In 1516 King Dom Manuel assumed the great mastership of all militant orders in Portugal (of Christ, of Aviz, of Sao Tiago and Crato); in 1551 the mastership was joined to the crown. The Portuguese Cortes was assembled frequently early in the rule of Dom Manuel, but only occasionally during his later rule and beyond; the inflow of revenue from overseas had made the Portuguese crown less dependent on extraodinary taxation granted by the Cortes.
Colonial successes had a strong impact on Portuguese society. Many Portuguese emigrated into the colonies to make their fortune; in Portugal, the cities flourished, based on the thriving sectors of trade and manufacturing - Portugal was to supply the colonies with goods in exchange for highly appreciated colonial products - and the shipbuilding industry boomed, as the Portuguese merchant fleet expanded. In 1580, King Henry died without a son; the Avis dynasty came to an end. Spanish troops quickly invaded, claiming the Portuguese crown for Spain's king PHILIPP II. Portugal and Spain, for the next 60 years, were united in DYNASTIC UNION.

History of Portugal by Dark Angel
Articles from Catholic Encyclopedia : Portugal, Coimbra, Aviz, Order of, Lisbon
Numerous articles on India and the early Portuguese discoverers, from Oceanos
REFERENCE David Birmingham, A Concise History of Portugal, Cambridge Concise Histories, 1993, 210 pp.
Donald E. Worcester, Brazil, from Colony to World Power, NY : Scribner 1973

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on October 20th 2005

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