caravels

Romanus Pontifex and the Age of Imperialism. January 8, 1455.

From the point of view of European History, the coast of Guinea has always been mainly associated to slavery. In fact, one of the names used commonly for this region is “The Slaves Coast”. When Portuguese arrived at the Atlantic coast of Africa around 1430, they were mainly interested in gold. Since Mansa Musa´s, king of the Empire of Mali, hajj to Mecca in 1325 with 500 slaves and 100 camels, each of them loaded with gold, the region was famous for its richness. The commerce of Subsaharan Africa had been until then controlled by the Islamic Empire that extended along the north of Africa. The commercial routes of the Muslims crossed the Sahara Desert. These routes had existed for centuries and the main goods were salt, textiles, fish, grain and slaves. When the Portuguese extended their in...

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...

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