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A history of spanish and portuguese world exploration to grow the europes economy

  • But changes were occurring, and some in a direction positive for economic improvement;
  • Religious institutions were crucial in the Reconquista, since the purpose of the whole military effort was to eradicate the Muslim religion from the country.

To the west, it faces the Atlantic Ocean, separating it from the American continent by a few thousand kilometers. To the south, it still faces the Atlantic, but the distance to Africa is only of a few hundred kilometers.

To the north and the east, it shares land frontiers with Spain, and both countries constitute the Iberian Peninsula, a landmass separated directly from France and, then, from the rest of the continent by the Pyrenees.

Climate in mainland Portugal is of the temperate sort. Temperature is, on average, higher than in the rest of the continent. Thanks to its elongated form, Portugal displays a significant variety of landscapes and sometimes brisk climatic changes for a country of such relatively small size. Following a classical division of the territory, it is possible to identify three main geographical regions: The Period before the Creation of Portugal We can only talk of Portugal as a more or less clearly identified and separate political unit although still far from a defined nation from the eleventh or twelfth centuries onwards.

The geographical area which constitutes modern Portugal was not, of course, an eventless void before that period.

  • Most of industry was untouched by it, and the only visible impact of empire on the sector was by fostering naval construction and repair, and all the accessory activities;
  • The first episodes in the early fifteenth century, under Henry the Navigator as well as the first exploratory trips along the African coast were entirely directed by the crown.

But scarcity of space allows only a brief examination of the earlier period, concentrating on its main legacy to future history. Roman and Visigothic Roots That legacy is overwhelmingly marked by the influence of the Roman Empire.

Portugal owes to Rome its language a descendant of Latin and main religion Catholicismas well as its primary juridical and administrative traditions. Interestingly enough, little of the Roman heritage passed directly to the period of existence of Portugal as a proper nation.

Momentous events filtered the transition. Romans first arrived in the Iberian Peninsula around the third century B. The Visigoths may be ranked as the second most important force in the shaping of future Portugal. The country owes them the monarchical institution which lasted until the twentieth centuryas well as the preservation both of Catholicism and although substantially transformed parts of Roman law.

Muslim Rule The most spectacular episode following Visigoth rule was the Muslim invasion of the eighth century.

Islam ruled the Peninsula from then until the fifteenth century, although occupying an increasingly smaller area from the ninth century onwards, as the Christian Reconquista started repelling it with growing efficiency.

  1. The Conquest of Ceuta An interesting way to have a fuller picture of the Discoveries is to study the Portuguese contribution to them. Consequently, property rights were not well defined.
  2. After all, Spain was then the largest and most powerful political unit in Europe, with vast extensions throughout the world.
  3. This was not, however, a unanimous sentiment, and a strong reaction followed, led by other parts of the same elite, in order to keep the Portuguese crown in the hands of a Portuguese king, separate from Castile. Therefore, military organization could not have been a single, defining cause for success.

Muslim rule set the area on a path different from the rest of Western Europe for a few centuries. However, apart from some ethnic traits legated to its people, a few words in its lexicon, as well as certain agricultural, manufacturing and sailing techniques and knowledge of which the latter had significant importance to the Portuguese naval discoveriesnothing of the magnitude of the Roman heritage was left in the peninsula by Islam.

This is particularly true of Portugal, where Muslim rule was less effective and shorter than in the South of Spain.

Perhaps the most important legacy of Muslim rule was, precisely, its tolerance towards the Roman heritage. Modern Portugal is a direct result of the Reconquista, the Christian fight against Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula.

That successful fight was followed by the period when Portugal as a nation came to existence. Portugal from the Late Eleventh Century to the Late Fourteenth Century Following the Muslim invasion, a small group of Christians kept their independence, settling in a northern area of the Iberian Peninsula called Asturias.

One more step

Their resistance to Muslim rule rapidly transformed into an offensive military venture. During the eighth century a significant part of northern Iberia was recovered to Christianity. This frontier, roughly cutting the peninsula in two halves, held firm until the eleventh century. Then, the crusaders came, mostly from France and Germany, inserting the area in the overall European crusade movement.

By the eleventh century, the original Asturian unit had been divided into two kingdoms, Leon and Navarra, which in turn were subdivided into three new political units, Castile, Aragon and the Condado Portucalense. The Condado Portucalense the political unit at the origin of future Portugal resulted from a donation, made in 1096, by the Leonese king to a Crusader coming from Burgundy FranceCount Henry.

He did not claim the title king, a job that would be fulfilled only by his son, Afonso Henriques generally accepted as the first king of Portugal in the first decade of the twelfth century.

We must, nevertheless, stress this as the moment in which Portuguese rulers started seeing Portugal as a political unit separate from the remaining units in the area. This is a crucial fact about Portugal in its infancy, and one that helps one understand the most important episode in Portuguese historythe naval discoveries, i. As, in that fight, the kingdom expanded to the south, it did so separately from the other Christian kingdoms existing in the peninsula.

Islam and the remaining Iberian Christian kingdoms. The country achieved a clear geographical definition quite early in its history, more precisely in 1249, when King Sancho II conquered the Algarve from Islam.

Remarkably for a continent marked by so much permanent frontier redesign, Portugal acquired then its current geographical shape. Portugal was throughout this entire period a frontier country, and one where the central authority was unable to fully control the territory in its entirety. This latter fact, together with the reception of the Germanic feudal tradition, shaped the nature of the institutions then established in the country. This was particularly important in understanding the land donations made by the crown.

  1. As there were no major popular revolts that could pressure these groups to decide otherwise, they did not have much difficulty in accepting them. Initial Lack of Resistance to Spanish Rule To understand why resistance was so mild one must bear in mind the nature of such political units as the Portuguese and Spanish kingdoms at the time.
  2. Other objectives of Portuguese travelers were the will to find the mythical Prester John — a supposed Christian king surrounded by Islam. In those early medieval days, it was, thus, the service to the crown that made noblemen eligible to benefit from land donations.
  3. As India was transformed into a platform for trade not only around Africa but also in Asia, a tendency was developed in particular under Afonso de Albuquerque, in the early sixteenth century to create an administrative structure in the territory.
  4. Although that was the original intent of the movement, the fact is that, progressively, the new Portuguese dynasty whose first monarch was John IV, 1640-1656 proceeded to an unprecedented centralization of power in the hands of the Portuguese crown.
  5. Many of the intermediate groups in particular the Church and the aristocracy kept their powers largely intact, even powers we would nowadays call public such as taxation, justice and police. This is particularly true of the relationship between central power and peripheral aristocratic powers.

They resulted mainly from the needs of the process of conquest: Religious institutions were crucial in the Reconquista, since the purpose of the whole military effort was to eradicate the Muslim religion from the country.

Additionally, priests and monks were full military participants in the process, not limiting their activity to studying or preaching. So, as the Reconquista proceeded, three sorts of territories came into existence: Economic Impact of the Military Institutional Framework This was an institutional framework that had a direct economic impact.

This is a phenomenon that is typical of Europe until at least the eighteenth century, and is quite representative of the overlap between the private and public spheres then prevalent. And the same goes for actual farmers, those directly toiling the land, since they were sometimes serfs, and even when they were not, had to give personal services to seigneurs and pay arbitrary tributes. Unusually Tight Connections between the Crown and High Nobility Much of the history of Portugal until the nineteenth century revolves around the tension between these three layers of power — the crown, the seigneurs and the communities.

The main trend in that relationship was, however, in the direction of an increased weight of central power over the others. This is already visible in the first centuries of existence of the country.

In a process that may look paradoxical, that increased weight was accompanied by an equivalent increase in seigneurial power at the expense of the communities. This gave rise to a uniquely Portuguese institution, which would be of extreme importance for the development of the Portuguese economy as we will later see: This led to an apparently contradictory process, in which at the same time as the crown was gaining ascendancy in the ruling of the country, it also gave away to seigneurs some of those powers usually considered as being public in nature.

Such was the connection between the crown and the seigneurs that the intersection between private and public powers proved to be very resistant in Portugal. That intersection lasted longer in Portugal than in other parts of Europe, and consequently delayed the introduction in the country of the modern notion of property rights.

But this is something to be developed later, and to fully understand it we must go through some further episodes of Portuguese history. For now, we must note the novelty brought by these institutions.

Although they can be seen as unfriendly to property rights from a nineteenth- and twentieth-century vantage point, they represented in fact a first, although primitive and incomplete, definition of property rights of a certain sort. Serfdom was not exceptionally widespread in early Portugal — and tended to disappear from the thirteenth century onwards.

More common was the settlement of colonies, a situation in which settlers were simple toilers of land, having to pay significant tributes to either the king or seigneurs, but had no rights over buying and selling the land.

When compared with current concepts of private property, copyhold includes serious restrictions to the full use of private property. Yet, it represented an improvement when compared to the prior legal forms of land use. In the end, private property as we understand it today began its dissemination through the country at this time, although in a form we would still consider primitive. The institutional change just noted was accompanied by a change in the way noblemen and the Church understood their possessions.

As the national territory became increasingly sheltered from the destruction of war, seigneurs became less interested in military activity and conquest, and more so in the good management of the land they already owned land. Accompanying that, some vague principles of specialization also appeared.

Some of those possessions were thus significantly transformed into agricultural firms devoted to a certain extent to selling on the market. One should not, of course, exaggerate the importance acquired by the exchange of goods in this period. Most of the economy continued to be of a non-exchange or at best barter character.

But the signs of change were important, as a certain part of the economy small as it was led the way to future more widespread changes. Not by chance, this is the period when we have evidence of the first signs of monetization of the economy, certainly a momentous change even if initially small in scalecorresponding to an entirely new framework for economic relations. First, the war at the frontier rather than within the territory seems to have had a positive influence on the rest of the economy.

The military front was constituted by a large number of soldiers, who needed constant supply of various goods, and this geared a significant part of the economy. Additionally, together with enlargement of territory also came the insertion within the economy of various cities previously under Muslim control such as the future capital, Lisbon, after 1147.

All this was accompanied by a widespread movement of what we might call internal colonization, whose main purpose was to farm previously uncultivated agricultural land.

This is also the time of the first signs of contact of Portuguese merchants with foreign markets, and foreign merchants with Portuguese markets. There are various signs of the presence of Portuguese merchants in British, French and Flemish ports, and vice versa.

Much of Portuguese exports were of a typical Mediterranean nature, such as wine, olive oil, salt, fish and fruits, and imports were mainly of grain and textiles. The suggestion has been made that the success of the Christian Reconquista depended to a significant extent on the economic success of those innovations.

Role of the Crown in Economic Reforms Of additional importance for the increasing sophistication of the economy is the role played by the crown as an institution. From the thirteenth century onwards, the rulers of the country showed a growing interest in having a well organized economy able to grant them an abundant tax base.

  • Although benefiting from the introduction of new crops mostly maize, but also potatoes and rice , Portuguese agriculture did not benefit significantly from the income stream arising from imperial trade, in particular when we could expect it to be a source of investment;
  • And Portugal was very much a part of that process;
  • Perhaps the most important legacy of Muslim rule was, precisely, its tolerance towards the Roman heritage;
  • Recent historiography, however, has questioned the interpretation.

Dinis 1279-1325 became famous for their economic reforms. Monetary reforms, fiscal reforms, the promotion of foreign trade, and the promotion of local fairs and markets an extraordinarily important institution for exchange in medieval times all point in the direction of an increased awareness on the part of Portuguese kings of the relevance of promoting a proper environment for economic activity.

Again, we should not exaggerate the importance of that awareness. Portuguese kings were still significantly although not entirely arbitrary rulers, able with one decision to destroy years of economic hard work. But changes were occurring, and some in a direction positive for economic improvement. As mentioned above, the definition of Portugal as a separate political entity had two main negative elements: Islam as occupier of the Iberian Peninsula and the centralization efforts of the other political entities in the same area.

The conflict either latent or open with the remaining kingdoms of the peninsula was kept alive much beyond that.

As the early centuries of the first millennium unfolded, a major centripetal force emerged in the peninsula, the kingdom of Castile.

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Castile progressively became the most successful centralizing political unit in the area. Such success reached a first climatic moment by the middle of the fifteenth century, during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, and a second one by the end of the sixteenth century, with the brief annexation of Portugal by the Spanish king, Phillip II. Much of the effort of Portuguese kings was to keep Portugal independent of those other kingdoms, particularly Castile. But sometimes they envisaged something different, such as an Iberian union with Portugal as its true political head.

It was one of those episodes that led to a major moment both for the centralization of power in the Portuguese crown within the Portuguese territory and for the successful separation of Portugal from Castile. Ascent of John I 1385 It started during the reign of King Ferdinand of Portugalduring the sixth and seventh decades of the fourteenth century.

Through various maneuvers to unite Portugal to Castile which included war and the promotion of diverse coupsFerdinand ended up marrying his daughter to the man who would later become king of Castile.