Americas

Cabral lands foot in Brazil. April 22, 1500.

On 15 February 1500, Cabral was appointed Capitão-mor (literally Major-Captain, or commander-in-chief) of a fleet sailing for India. It was then the custom for the Portuguese Crown to appoint nobles to naval and military commands, regardless of experience or professional competence. Cabral became the military chief, while far more experienced navigators were seconded to the expedition to aid him in naval matters. The most important of these were Bartolomeu Dias, Diogo Dias and Nicolau Coelho. They would, along with the other captains, command 13 ships and 1,500 men, of which 700 were soldiers, although most of them had no combat experience. The fleet had two divisions. The first division was composed of nine naus (carracks) and two round caravels, and was headed to Calicut in India with th...

The Egg of Columbus. October 12, 1492.

An egg of Columbus refers to a brilliant idea or discovery that seems simple or easy after the fact. The expression refers to an apocryphal story in which Christopher Columbus, having been told that discovering the Americas was inevitable and no great accomplishment, challenges his critics to make an egg stand on its tip. After his challengers give up, Columbus does it himself by tapping the egg on the table to flatten its tip. The Columbus story may have originated with Italian historian and traveler Girolamo Benzoni. In his book History of the New World, published in 1565, he wrote: Columbus being at a party with many noble Spaniards, where, as was customary, the subject of conversation was the Indies: one of them undertook to say: —”Mr. Christopher, even if you had not found the I...

Columbus encounters the Americas. October 12,1492

In 1492, a Spanish maritime expedition led by Cristopher Columbus parted in search of a new route to get to Asia. The expedition finally encountered the Americas, a continent that was previously unknown in Europe, and was the inception of the colonization of the Americas. This event is often cited as the beginning of the Modern Era. Portugal had been up until the late 15th century the main European power interested in discovering new overseas routes, while Castile (Spain´s predecessor) channeled its resources in the re-conquer of its mainland to the Moors. That is why it was not until the late 15th century that the Kingdoms of Castile and Leon united started to think of exploring new commerce ways, as they had stopped receiving tributes from Africa. Columbus had failed to convince the king...

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