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Foundations for the Portuguese Maritime Empire

One of the sources that I used to write my paper.

One of the sources that I used to write my paper.


Of all the papers that I wrote for college, “Foundations for the Portuguese Maritime Empire” was one of my favorites to write.  It was one of my favorites because of the interesting stories of Henry the Navigator and the whole 75-80 history leading up the the famous Vasco Da Gama voyage to India in 1497.

Advancements in technology and incremental smaller voyagers south along the western African coast all played a part.

Course Information

I wrote this paper for a course entitled Renaissance/Reformation Europe history course taught by Professor Ray Ball, PhD. Professor Ball gave me a lot of encouragement in writing this paper.

I took the course during the Fall 2012 semester.

I was happy to find our that there was a journal written by an unknown crewman on Da Gama’s voyage. That is how the world knows the details of Da Gama’s trip around the horn of Africa. The copy of that record came in a book published in the late 1800’s. It came to me as an inter-library loan from a private library in New York.


Start of Paper: Foundations for the Portuguese Maritime Empire

In 1497 Vasco da Gama sailed around the continent of Africa, traversed the Arabian Sea, and reached resource-rich India.[1] He and his 150 sailors, aboard four ships, changed the world in ways that could not have been imaged. World wealth, power, religion and commerce were about to undergo monumental changes, but Da Gama’s voyage did not happen overnight. For more than seventy-five years Portugal incrementally sent ship after ship, working their way down the western coast of Africa. Gold, slaves, religion and a water route to India served as catalysts.

During those 75 years, preparatory to Da Gama’s 23,000 mile voyage, key policies were implemented, discoveries made, technologies invented, enemies conquered, and a thriving merchant and maritime culture developed, all just to give Da Gama’s mission a shot at success.[2] During the 1999 Commemoration of the Portuguese Discoveries, a fair comparison was made between efforts that went into the preparation for man’s landing on the moon and those that were required for Da Gama to reach India.[3]

A thriving home front with favorable maritime policies, economic incentives and trade agreements were crucial to Portugal’s maritime success.  Cooperation between Portuguese monarchs and merchants was good. A middle-class community of ship owners and merchants was on the rise. By the mid-14th century “merchants gained seats on councils of state.”[4] In 1380 ship owners established a mutual-protection fund, known as Companhia das Naus, to protect ship owners from unexpected losses due to war or unexpected foreign port taxes. This fund was paid for by domestic and foreign ships that did business in Portugal and was based on each ship’s cargo value.[5] The organization was fairly extensive. Funds were even distributed to foreign ports in which Portuguese ships frequented, in the event that pay out was necessary. This setup would ultimately lead to widespread Portuguese trading post.[6] This helped to maintain a healthy and secure business culture.

From an early date the Portuguese crown provided economic incentives to spur the building of ships. Shipbuilders in Lisbon were allowed to cut from the royal forests free of taxation. Many shipbuilding materials such as iron and canvas had to be imported and were, often times, imported tax free.[7] Shipwrights were soon offered a similar tax-free opportunity for building 50 ton ships and larger. Even foreign ship owners were incentivized to operate their ships from Portuguese ports.[8]  Even though pine forests were replanted[9] for the purposes of ship building, a lot wood was still imported from timber-rich Cantabria.[10]  Monarchs actively arranged trade agreements and invited foreign merchants to live and trade in Portugal, both of which spurred economic growth. Among the many, Italian merchants from Florence were active participants in Portuguese commerce. One particular Italian merchant was Girolamo Sernigi (1453-1510). Sernigi’s notoriety stems from several letters that he wrote to family and associates back in Florence. Sernigi personally knew several of da Gama’s crew and eventually sailed to India himself. Sernigi’s letters are among the best, and most detailed, sources available on Da Gama’s voyage to India.[11]

A good starting point to describe how such a small unsuspecting country, on the outskirts of Europe, could rise in prominence and lay the groundwork for a connected world is 1411. In that year King John I defeated his Castile neighbor in several battles. Politically Portugal was relatively secure, but the monarchy was very poor. Merchants in Lisbon controlled most of the wealth in Portugal.[12]  King John I married Philippa, the daughter of John of Gaunt. This marriage seemed to be a happy one and it strengthened Anglo-Portuguese ties. Together they had six children: Edward, Pedro, Henry, Isabel, John, and Ferdinand (Cuyvers, 18-19). The three oldest played a prominent role in Portugal’s amazing oceanic achievements.  Following the many battles with Castile, the ambitious attention of the three older sons turned to attacking Moors, specifically those that were near the Straits of Gibraltar occupying the small, yet well-to-do Ceuta. The king was not enthusiastic about taking on the expense and risk, but his sons, especially the eager Prince Henry (1394-1460), convinced their father of the potential benefits of a Portuguese victory.

A Portuguese-held Ceuta would control ship traffic in and out of the Mediterranean. Additionally, Ceuta would provide shelter to Portuguese ships as well as provide a vantage point to prey on unsuspecting Arab ships. Henry also argued that if the attack came as a complete surprise, then there was the possibility of some nice spoils of war. In 1415 Portugal did attack the unaware Ceuta and easily took control of it by the evening of the first day. The victory was a very big deal to the people of Portugal. They could not believe it. The troops were welcomed home with fanfare. Little Portugal had actually went out and took African land from the Moors, something “none of the great powers of the time … had done.”[13] This feat itself, the first successful incursion into Islamic North Africa, would have given Portugal a small place in history, but this was only the beginning of monumental Portuguese exploits. The capture of Ceuta brought Portugal wealth while performing their “Christian duty”. So, “God and greed worked in perfect harmony.”[14]  In the aftermath, the Portuguese confirmed the hardly believable stories of “the fabulous riches of the Arab trading empire.”[15] Ceuta was an eye-opening experience for the Portuguese.

The standard of living in Portugal paled in comparison. With this victory believed that there was much more within their reach, but continued attacks, head-on into Islamic North Africa, would be suicidal. Perhaps the sea would provide a way to outflank the Muslims.[16] At this time Portuguese chronicler Gomes Eannes de Azurara was commissioned to keep a record of Portuguese expansion. After the fact, Azurara agreed that the taking of Ceuta was the perfect starting point when he wrote “Where could this chapter begin better than in speaking of that most glorious conquest of the great city of Ceuta, of which famous victory the heavens felt the glory and the earth of benefit?”[17] It was the spark that Portugal needed to dream big.

The capture of Ceuta caused the “gates” to swing wide open for exploration to the south, along Africa’s west coast. Prince Henry considered the “patron of Portuguese navigation”[18] became a central figure in the soon-to-be Portuguese empire. He spent the majority of his life concerned over the exploration of the African coast. In his record The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, chronicler Azurara listed Henry’s motivations in a very straightforward way.[19] Even though Azurara was employed by the monarchy and questions of objectivity might be questioned, it is important to bear in mind that Azurara was a contemporary of Henry and knew him personally. Henry, according to Azurara, looked south partly out of curiosity. Henry “had also a wish to know the land that lay beyond the isles of Canary and that Cape called Bojador.”[20] No record existed, whether written or in human memory, that told about things south of the Canaries. There were, however, old mariner tales of boiling oceans, sea monsters and sailors who ventured south, but never returned. Venturing beyond Cabo Bojador (Bulging Cape) caused fear in early sailors.[21] Solidly educated, Henry rediscovered classic authors who described travel around Africa. No classic author mentioned anything about boiling oceans or sea monsters. Henry did not believe the contemporary stories he was hearing.[22] Secondly, Henry realized that if the land southward was inhabited that its people may possess merchandise that would be of interest to Portugal and vice versa.[23] So the potential for wealth was Henry’s second reason, according to Azurara.

Thirdly, there were religious motivations. To know “how far the power of those infidels extended” was important as was finding allies that “would aid him in the war against the enemies of the faith.”[24]  The “salvation of lost souls”[25] was a fourth reason. Henry did not expect to convert infidels, but exploration, Henry reasoned, would bring Portugal in contact with those who were neither Christian nor Muslin that may convert and make good allies.[26] Azurara finished his list with a sixth reason that “would seem to be the root from which all the others proceeded”.  Azurara ascribed this to “the inclination of the heavenly wheels” which was a reference to what people today refer to as horoscope.[27] Henry’s “ascendent was Aries, which is the house of Mars and exaltation of the sun” and the prince “should toil at high and mighty conquests, especially in seeking out things that were hidden from other men and secret, according to the nature of Saturn.”[28]  To Henry, he was preordained to do this work.[29] Azurar produced this list with the benefit of hindsight, but it all boiled down to curiosity, profit and religion. Curiously, despite a high interest in exploration, Henry, who later was known as Henry the Navigator, never went on any lengthy voyage himself.

Funded in part by the crusading institution Order of Christ[30] (of which Henry was the newly-appointed administrator)[31] the first explorer ships set sail in 1419 or 1420. The captain of this first voyage is not recorded, but the crew was, like most in that day, very superstitious and felt that venturing so far off was something they should not be doing. Early on, Henry could not find “one who dared to pass Cape Bojador,” but this was “not from cowardice or want of good will, but … the wide-spread rumor about this Cape.”[32] During the 1420s the islands of Porto Santo and Madeira were discovered by timid sailors who sailed westward when they should have headeded south. These islands were colonized and provided valuable agricultural crops to Portugal. Next, the Azores were discovered and claimed by Henry’s sailors. This was also a great find, but no less than twelve voyages had been sent and every crew had lost its nerve without ever venturing further south than the Canaries.[33] One credible concern that the sailors had was that while it was easy to sail south, it difficult getting back home in their inefficient one-mast ships.[34] This problem was addressed incrementally.

In 1434, a frustrated Henry was delighted when Gil Eannes finally sailed beyond Bojador, but Eannes’ crew swore that they personally witnessed the ocean boiling in the distance and refused to go much further. Henry wanted more though so he sent Eannes out again, promising him “You cannot find a peril so great that the hope of reward will not be greater…”[35] Eannes’ second voyage may have been one of the most important in the whole Age of Exploration.[36] Eannes decided to go a different direction. At the Canaries, where most ships steered toward the coast line, Eannes continued out to sea (southwesterly) for several days. He then turned back eastward. He was now about 60 miles south of Bojador. He went ashore and briefly explored the African coastline. He did not encounter any people, but he and his men did find human footprints.[37] Knowing that Henry would want some proof, Eannes collected unique plant samples from his quick trip ashore. Although the plants likely were very wilted before Eannes arrived back in Portugal, it is reported that Henry was ecstatic.[38] While returning home Eannes realized that the supposed boiling ocean was actually water breaking over outcropped rocks.[39]  No sea monsters were found either. Eannes had accomplished more than surmounting a physical barrier. He discovered that people did, in fact, live below Bojador and he dispelled many of the old mariner myth and replaced them with reality.[40] Henry’s plans to explore further south could now go forward without myth-based fear.

In 1437, Henry encouraged his older brother Edward, now the King, to attack Tangier in northern Africa. This was a disaster. Portugal had to surrender and the Moors demanded the return of Ceuta. The Moors took Henry’s youngest brother Prince Ferdinand hostage, while awaiting the return of Ceuta. Portugal never did give up Ceuta and Prince Ferdinand died in a Moorish prison five years later. One year later King Edward died. Political turmoil ensued. King Edwards’ heir was only six years old, so Henry’s older brother Pedro became regent. Chronicler Azurara reported “great discords in the kingdom”[41] and exploration was mostly halted for the space of five years.  The time was not wasted though. While Henry was busy with political issues, explorers Gil Eannes, Antao Goncalves Baldaia and others looked for ways to improve their ships. Upgrades to the older version of the caravel were being discussed, implemented and tested.[42]

Up to this point, most coastal exploration conducted in the smaller, 25 to 30 tons barchas.[43] Barchas were single, square-rigged boats that held a crew of only fourteen or fifteen men. As exploration moved further away from Portugal the need for larger crew and provision capacity became necessary. Explorers also found it difficult to fight the winds and currents on their return trips. The immediate answer was a transition to the tall, triangular, lateen sails.[44] Ships were outfitted with two such sails. Maneuverability and speed were improved and their ships drafted shallower draft in the water.[45] The new caravel, although larger at roughly 50 tons, rode higher in the water, decreasing chances of grounding itself on rocks. This new design made exploration of large rivers mouths possible, as well. These lateen-rigged, exploratory caravels did very well for coastal exploration, but when it came to the wide open Atlantic they did not fare so well.

The larger of the two masts had to be nearly as tall as the caravel was long. This requirement, at some point, limited the overall size of the ship. In the 1440s explorers began using trade winds and ocean currents when approaching and returning from the African coast. This large semi-circle route took explorers more into the open ocean.  By the time that Vasco da Gama sailed to India, further modifications were implemented. His caravels were redonda caravels.[46] The redonda had three main masts and its rigging changed back, mostly, to square sails.[47] This new rigging design increased speed and took better advantage of trade winds.  Redondas were built longer, thereby allowing for more provisions, making longer voyages possible.[48] These ocean-going caravels were built with a single-piece oak keels and pine planking, which were fastened to the ship’s frame with nails.[49] The redonda’s configuration superiority was confirmed in 1492. Columbus rigged the Pinta with square-rigged sails before departing on his first voyage. His other ship, the tall, triangular-rigged (lateen) Nina yawed and fell behind the others. Stopping at the Canaries, the Nina was also outfitted with similar square-rigging, thus converting it to a caravela redonda. Columbus’s third ship, the Santa Maria, was a warehouse ship (Noa) that was already rigged with square sails.[50]

So, after a nearly five year hiatus and after new political stability was achieved in Portugal, Henry returned to his primary love of exploration. In 1441 Eannes and Goncalves reached the Rio de Ouro and encountered natives for the first time, but were unsuccessful in capturing any. Two 17 year old young men, on horseback, were sent upriver. They went as far as they could, but returned to the ship before nightfall. They came upon nineteen native men, but the men ran and hid. None were captured. A group of sailors resumed the search the next morning, but were unsuccessful. Instead, Baldaia’s crew killed several sea lions and returned to Portugal.[51] Sea lion was the first commercial product retrieved from Africa.[52] Later in that same year Goncalves and fellow explorer Nuno Tristao finally found, captured, and returned African natives to Portugal. This was Europe’s first involvement in the slave trade.[53]

Up to the death of Prince Henry in 1460, explorations efforts reached modern-day Sierra Leone. Exploration was conducted not only by sailors that Henry personally sent, but also by contracted private mariners.[54] Privatization vastly increased the number of exploratory voyages. In Henry’s last years the first Portuguese trading post was established on Arguin Island. Henry also sought and received the papal bull Romanus pontifex in 1455 which confirmed Portugal’s claim to lands discovered south of the Canary Islands.[55] [56] In his lifetime, Prince Henry sent an estimated 89 explorers on various exploratory voyages. Each voyage pushed further south and increased Portugal’s maritime knowledge.

At the time of Henry’s death, monetary returns from exploration had been meager. During the 1460s exploration practically came to a halt, but in retrospect two noteworthy events occurred. In 1468, Vasco da Gama was born and future King Manuel was born in 1468.[57] Exploration increased in 1469 when King Afonso V privatized exploration and granted a contract to merchant Fernao Gomes.[58] The contract required Gomes to explore the African Gulf of Guinea at the rate of 100 miles each year for a period of five years. Under Gomes’ leadership, exploration extended below the equator in 1472, gold was found and the Congo River was reached in 1482. In 1481, newly-crowned King Joao II ordered that Elmina Castle (also known as Sao Jorge da Mina) be built in modern-day Ghana for the protection of trade interests and for a place for Portuguese ships to seek provisions.[59]  This endeavor was accomplished with a fleet of 10 ships, 600 men (soldiers, sailors and craftsmen) and pre-fabricated parts for the fortress. The outer walls were constructed in roughly 20 days. Sixty men remained behind to man the fortress, as the king instructed.[60]

In the latter half of the 15th century Portuguese explorers made major improvements in the maps and charts. These new maps emphasized the Mediterranean less and focus more on the Atlantic. New discoveries in navigation were reached.[61] Explorers sought ways that “could permit the determination of the position of the ship even on the open sea.”[62] This was accomplished using “not only the pole star, but also the sun.” Use of the sun was necessary when south of the equator. In 1478, astronomy professor Abraham Zacuto created a chart to compensate for solar declination, which allowed ship captains to compensation for seasonal variances in the sun.[63]

A monumental event occurred in 1488 when Bartolomeu Dias sailed two caravels and a smaller supply ship around the southern tip of Africa and answered the question, once and for all, whether there was a water route to India. The Indian Ocean was not land locked. Dias’ fleet left Lisbon in August of 1487 and, after provisioning at Sao Jorge da Mina, sailed past the last known Portuguese marker, in December, near modern-day Namibia. This marker identified the furthest south that Diogo Cao, another of the many Portuguese explorers, had ever sailed. Chronicler John de Barros recorded that Dias, although he had faced many storms off the coast of Spain, described the storms off the southern tip of Africa as a “fatal storm”.[64] [65]

Dias’ two caravels[66] sailed at half-mast for 13 days. At the end of those thirteen days Dias ordered that they sail to the east, but he could no longer find the African coast. Only after sailing north, Cape Good Hope was found. Upon landing, they saw natives herding cattle, but could not communicate with them. Dias met with his officers and an agreement was made to sail only three more days. After three days of sailing in a northeastern direction, Dias’ crew would go no further. Dias was very distraught at having to turn back, but the agreement to return to Portugal and report had been decided upon.[67] One important observation that Dias made was that even the lateen-rigged caravels could barely make headway in the Cape Good Hope region. This report caused ship modifications that were implemented by the time Da Gama set sail.[68]

Many have wondered why it took King John II another ten years before sending ships to India. During those ten years, John II was patient and solidified Portugal’s holdings in western Africa. Additional mainland ports were established. Newly discovered islands were colonized and several attempts at securing African allies occurred. King John II did not, at the time, have all of the information that he needed to send ships to India. Dias’ successful voyage did not give King John II all the information that he required.[69] At the same time that Bartolomeu Dias was dispatched to southern Africa, King John II also sent, via land, Afonso de Paiva and Pero da Covilha to find the famed Prester John and to find out the trade situation in India. These two men had dark complexions and spoke fluent Arabic.[70] De Paiva went to Ethiopia (Abyssinia, where Prester John was supposedly ruled) and da Covilha went to India.

Da Covilha spent more than a year in Cananor, Calicut, Goa and other parts of the coastal India area, learning all he could about the political, military and trade situations there. This was presumably in preparation for the future voyage of da Gama to India. By the time that Da Covilha arrived back in Cairo, the pre-designated meeting place for both men, da Covilha had been on the road for three years. In Cairo he learned that de Paiva had died before reaching Ethiopia. Da Covilha wrote a detailed report and had it sent to King John II and then proceeded on to the eastern coast of Africa, including Ethiopia. He went as far as modern-day Mozambique.[71] Some believe that when Vasco da Gama reached Mozambique in 1498 that he was the first Portuguese man to do so, but in reality da Covilha beat him there by several years.[72] [73]

On May 20th 1498 Vasco da Gama arrived in Calecut, capping off a monumental achievement that was seventy-five year in the making.[74] It was possible only after a compounding of many events. Portugal’s foray into India and the Indian Ocean altered the balance of power in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The achievement was costly, especially in terms of lives spent, but the perseverance of Portuguese monarchs, mariners and merchants impacted the world profoundly and set nations on collision courses that were both explosive and arguably inevitable.



Works Cited

Ames, Glenn J. Em Nome De Deus: The Journal of the First Voyage of Vasco Da Gama To India 1497-1499. Netherlands: Brill, 2009.

Astengo, Corradino. “The State of European Science and Technology in the Late Middle Ages.” GeoJournal, Vol 26, No. 4, 1992: 440.

Azurara, Gomes Eannes de. The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea. April 1, 2011. (accessed 11 11, 2012).

Bioko. “European exploration of the African coast, 1434-1487, Map.” Encyclopedia Britannica Academic Edition Online, 2011.

Castro, Filipe. “In Search of Unique Iberian Ship Design Concepts.” Historical Archaelogy, Vol. 42, No 2, 2008: 76-77.

Cuyvers, Luc. Into the Rising Sun: Vasco da Gama and the Search for the Sea Route to the East. New York: National Commission for the Commemoration of the Portuguese Discoveries, 1999.

d’Aios-Moner(PhD), Andreu Martinez. “Conquistadores, Mercenaries and the Red Sea – The Failed Portuguese Dominion of the Red sea.” Northeast African Studies, Vol. 12, Number 1, 2012: 2.

d’Errico, Peter. Indigenous peoples – Global issues: index. October 24, 1997. (accessed November 6, 2012).

Domingues, Francisco Contente. “Vasco da Gama’s voyage: myths and realities in maritime history .” Source: Portuguese Studies, 2003: 3.

Encyclopedia Britannica Online. s. v. “Pêro da Covilhã,”. n.d. (accessed November 24, 2012).

Hamdani, Abbas. “Ottoman Response to the Discovery of America and the New Route to India.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 101, No. 3 , 1981: 325-330.

Nathan, Lord, Eva Taylor, Armando Cortesao, and Alan Burns. “Prince Henry the Navigator and the Discoveryof the Sea Route to India: Discussion.” The Geographic Journal, Vol 127, No 2, 1961: 155-158.

Ravenstein, Ernest George. The Journal of the First Voyage of Vasco da Gama, 1497-1499. London: Bedford Press, 1898.

Sernigi, Girolamo. “Girolamo Sernigi’s Second letter to a Gentleman at Florence.” In A Journal of the First Voyage of Vasco Da Gama, 1497-1499, by Ernest George Ravenstein. New York: Hakluyt Society, 1898.

Smith, Roger C. Vanguard of Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Vogt, John. Portuguese Rule on the Gold Coast. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1979.


[1] Ernest George Ravenstein, The Journal of the First Voyage of Vasco da Gama, 1497-1499, (London: Bedford Press,1898),1

[2] Glen J Ames, Em Nome De Deus: The Journal of the First Voyage of Vasco Da Gama to India 1497-1499, (Netherlands: Brill, 1992), 440.

[3] Luc Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun: Vasco da Gama and the Search for the Sea Route to the East, (New York: Commission for the Commemoration of the Portuguese Discoveries, 1999), i

[4] Roger C. Smith, Vanguard of Empire: Ships of Exploration in the Age of Columbus, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 8

[5] Tax levied was 2%. (Smith, 8)

[6] Smith, Vanguard of Empire, 8

[7] Smith, Vanguard of Empire, 28

[8] Smith, Vanguard of Empire, 28

[9] Pine was used for ship side boards.

[10] Cantabria Spain. Portugal eventually built and repaired ships in India, taking advantage of cheap supplies and labor there (Smith, 28).

[11] Girolamo Sernigi, “Girolamo Sernigi’s Second Letter to a Gentleman at Florence,” in The Journal of the First Voyage of Vasco da Gama, 1497-1499, George Ernest Ravenstein, (London: Bedford Press, 1898), 119-120

[12] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 18

[13] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 28

[14] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 23

[15] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 28

[16] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 28

[17] Gomes Eannes de Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, (New York: Burt Franklin, 2011), accessed November 15, 2012,

[18] Lord Nathan, et al., “Prince Henry the Navigator and the Discovery of the Sea Route to India: Discussion”, The Geographic Journals, Vol. 127, No. 2 (1961): 157

[19] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 24

[20] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 28

[21] Smith, Vanguard of Empire, 40

[22] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 25

[23] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 28

[24] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 28

[25] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 29

[26] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 26

[27] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 30

[28] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 30

[29] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 30

[30] Smith, Vanguard of Empire, 5

[31] The Order of Christ was created by the pope in 1319 at the dissolution of the Portuguese Knights of Templar. It was charged with defending Christianity and “carrying the war to them in their own territory.”

[32] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 31

[33] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 30

[34] Smith, Vanguard of Empire, 38

[35] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 33

[36] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 43

[37] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 34

[38] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 37

[39] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 32

[40] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 33

[41] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 39

[42] The name caravel was first mentioned in a letter to King “Affonso III of Portugal” in 1255 (Hamdani, 325) .

[43] Smith, Vanguard of Empire, 37

[44] Smith, Vanguard of Empire, 41

[45] Smith, Vanguard of Empire, 38

[46] Smith, Vanguard of Empire, 31

[47] Later versions of the caravel maintained one triangular-shaped (lateen) sail at the rear of the ship. It gave the ship “added propulsion tempered by increased maneuverability” (Smith, 95)

[48] Smith, Vanguard of Empire, 41

[49] Filipe Castro, “In Search of Unique Iberian Ship Design Concepts,” Historical Archaeology Vol. 42 No. 2 (2008): 76-77

[50] Smith, Vanguard of Empire, 41

[51] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 37

[52] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 33

[53] Azurara, The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 47

[54] Encyclopedia of African History, s.v. “Portugal: Exploration and Trade in the Fifteenth Century,” accessed November 27, 2012,

[55] “Indigenous peoples – Global issues; index,” accessed October 24, 2012,

[56] Full English translation available at which was created by the University of Massachusetts Legal Studies Department as a teaching and research resource.

[57] King Manuel was king at the time of Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India.

[58] John Vogt, Portuguese Rule on the Gold Coast (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979), 6-7

[59] Vogt, Portuguese Rule on the Gold Coast, 19-20

[60] Vogt, Portuguese Rule on the Gold Coast, 20

[61] Nathan et al., Prince Henry the Navigator, 158

[62] Corradino Astengo, “The State of European Science and Technology in the Late Middle Ages,” GeoJournal, Vol. 26, No. 4 (1992): 440

[63] Astengo, “The State of European Science,” 1441

[64] Could not find an English translation of Barros’s work. According to Brown University’s John Carter Brown Research Library, “To this day, there is still no English translation of Barros’s work.” See item 54. Had to rely on partial translations available in Luc Cuyer’s book.

[65] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 66

[66] Dias left the supply ship in a cove upon entering rough waters.

[67] Cuyvers, Into the Rising Sun, 67

[68] Franscisco Contente Domingues, “Vasco da Gama’s Voyage: Myths and Realities in Maritime History,” Portuguese Studies (2003): 3

[69] Domingues, “Myths and Realities in Maritime History,” 4

[70] Domingues, “Myths and Realities in Maritime History,” 4

[71] “Pero da Covilha,” Encyclopedia Britannica Online Academic Edition, accessed November 24, 2012,

[72] Covilha never returned to Portugal. He was prevented from leaving Abyssinia, married and had children there.

[73] Ravenstein, First Voyage of Vasco da Gama, 1497-1499, 21

[74] Ravenstein, First Voyage of Vasco da Gama, 1497-1499, 48

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