Portugal

The Charge of the Mamelukes. May 2, 1808.

After signing the Fontainebleau Treaty on October 27, 1807, French troops entered Spain on their way to Portugal, and Madrid was occupied by Marshal Murat´s troops by March 23 1808. On the next day Ferdinand VII made his triumphal entrance in the city together with his father, Charles IV, who had been forced to abdicate. Both kings were compelled to go to Bayonne to meet Napoleon, where the Bayonne abdications took place, making Joseph Bonaparte, the emperor´s brother effectively king of Spain. Just before his departure to Bayonne, Ferdinand VII had constituted a Governing Board in Madrid. The truth was that the board was a puppet in the hands of Murat, a simple spectator to the facts that were to come. On April 27 Murat requested (supposedly in the name of Charles IV) to move Charles´s so...

Queen Urraca. March 8, 1126.

Her great-grand parents were a king of Navarre, a king of Aragon, a Castile countess and a king of France, and she grew up in the shadow of her father, king Alfonso VI, nicknamed “The Brave”. Having these origins, it is not strange that Urraca was nicknamed “The Reckless”. In the Middle Ages the image of a woman was always linked to weakness and helplessness. Therefore Urraca´s talent, skill and determination always attracted attention. For sure her personality and the historical circumstances that surrounded her made her the center of political and dynastic intrigues, with stories filled with passion, love, treason and treachery. She was the firstborn daughter of king Alfonso VI and Constance of Burgundy, born probably in Leon around 1081. She was married when she was only 12 to Raymond o...

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...

The Monroe Doctrine. December 2, 1823.

The U.S. government feared the victorious European powers that emerged from the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815) would revive monarchical government. France had already agreed to restore the Spanish monarchy in exchange for Cuba. As the revolutionary Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) ended, Prussia, Austria, and Russia formed the Holy Alliance to defend monarchism. In particular, the Holy Alliance authorized military incursions to re-establish Bourbon rule over Spain and its colonies, which were establishing their independence. The Monroe Doctrine was a United States policy that opposed European colonialism in the Americas. It argued that any intervention in the politics of the Americas by foreign powers was a potentially hostile act against the United States. It began in 1823; however, the term &...

The Battle of San Juan de Ulúa. September 24, 1568.

The Battle of San Juan de Ulúa was a battle between English privateers and Spanish forces at San Juan de Ulúa (in modern Veracruz, Mexico). It marked the end of the campaign carried out by an English flotilla of six ships that had systematically conducted what the Spanish considered to be illegal trade in the Caribbean Sea, including the slave trade, at times imposing it by force. Subsequent to the beginning of the Age of Discovery and the European exploration of the New World it was determined that in order to minimize potential conflict between the two major naval powers of the world at the time, Spain and Portugal, that a demarcation line between the two spheres of influence would be necessary. In the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, dividing the New World into Spanish and Portuguese zones w...

The Source of the Nile. November 14, 1770.

James Bruce was born at the family seat of Kinnaird, Stirlingshire, and educated at Harrow School and Edinburgh University, and began to study for the bar, but his marriage to the daughter of a wine importer and merchant resulted in him entering that business instead. His wife died in October 1754, within nine months of marriage, and Bruce thereafter travelled in Portugal and Spain as part of the wine trade. The examination of oriental manuscripts at the Escorial in Spain led him to the study of Arabic and Ge’ez and determined his future career. In 1758 his father’s death placed him in possession of the estate of Kinnaird. On the outbreak of war with Spain in 1762 he submitted to the British government a plan for an attack on Ferrol. His suggestion was not adopted, but it led t...

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 Battle of Munda. March 17, 46 BC.

During the Civil Wars, the republicans had initially been led by Pompey, until the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC and Pompey’s death soon afterwards. However, in April 46 BC, Caesar‘s forces destroyed the Pompeian army at the Battle of Thapsus. After this, military opposition to Caesar was confined to Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula, comprising modern Spain and Portugal). During the spring of 46 BC, two legions in Hispania Ulterior, largely formed by former Pompeian veterans enrolled in Caesar’s army, had declared themselves for Gnaeus Pompeius (son of Pompey the Great) and driven out Caesar’s proconsul. Soon they were joined by the remnants of the Pompeian army. These forces were commanded by the brothers Gnaeus Pompeius and Sextus (sons of Pompey) and by the talente...

February 12, 1502. The Muslim Conversion or Expulsion.

Unlike the Muslims of Granada, who were under Muslim rule until 1492, Muslims in the rest of Castile had lived under Christian rule for generations. Following the conversions in Granada, Isabella decided to impose a conversion-or-expulsion decree against the Muslims. Castile outlawed Islam in a legislation dated July 1501 in Granada, but it was not immediately made public. The proclamation took place on February 12, 1502, in Seville, and then locally in other towns. The edict affected “all kingdoms and lordships of Castile and Leon“. According to the edict, all Muslim males aged 14 or more, or females aged 12 or more, should convert or leave Castile by the end of April 1502. The edict justified the decision by saying that after the successful conversion of Granada, allowing Mus...

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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